Archive for February, 2010

Feb 28 2010

66% for the public option in WA 3

Published by under Washington

Possibly not what they expected when they asked the question.

Washington’s 3rd congressional district, the one with an open seat this year (currently held by Democrat Brian Baird) is the one anchored by Vancouver to the south and Olympia to the north, but considered politically marginal and maybe bearing a slight Republican tilt. There is at least plenty of good evidence for thinking so.

Which makes this, from the Columbian political blog, worth note:

Voters were asked whether they favored or opposed the reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in December — a bill that lacked a public option. Just 39 percent of 3rd District residents said they favored the Senate bill, while 54 percent opposed it and 7 percent were undecided.

In a follow-up question, voters were asked whether they would favor or oppose “the national government offering everyone the choice of buying into a government-administered health insurance plan — something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get — that would compete with private health insurance plans.” A whopping 66 percent favored the idea; 24 percent opposed it, and 10 percent were undecided.

Once again: If you’re going to talk about the unpopularity of the current health care legislation, it’s very important to talk about why that is.

The bloggers at Horse’s Ass picked it up and delivered some useful comments on the point and benefits – or lack thereof – in being what is commonly considered a Democratic “moderate” today.

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Feb 27 2010

Health insurance monopoly, NW

Published by under Northwest

The idea of a competitive health insurance marketplace sounds not too bad, but it’s a long way from the reality.

A report from Health Care for America Now (dating from May 2009 but useful again in the current debate) has broken out the concentration of health insurers by state. How did the Northwest states rank?

Idaho had the 16th most concentrated – least competitive, most monopolized – health insurance markets among the 50 states. Blue Cross of Idaho (46% of the market) and Regence Blue Shield (29%) together take up 75% of the Idaho market.

The report: “For family health coverage in Idaho during that time [2000-07], the average annual combined premium for employers and employees rose from $5,160 to $11,432. . . . During that time, health insurance premiums for Idaho working families rose four times faster than median earnings.”

Washington was somewhat better off, at 34th among the 50. There, Premera Blue Cross had 38% of the market and Regence Blue Shield 23%, for a total between the two of 61%.

Family coverage cost increases in Washington? On average, from $6,496 to $12,120, or 5.3 times faster than median earnings.

Of the three states, Oregon was actually best off, ranking 40th. Providence Health & Services had 25% of the market, and Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield 23%, for a total of 48% – not quite half.

Family coverage in Oregon rose in those years from $6,654 to $12,321, about 4.7 times faster than median earnings.

Of course, those skyrocketing figures are somewhat out of date; they’re obviously larger by now.

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Feb 27 2010

10 militia reasons

Published by under Idaho

Not to harp too much on the Pocatello Tea Party, but this one was not to be missed.

The headline was “Ten Reasons Why We Need a State Militia Now.

Here are the ten:

bullet Attacks by international “terrorists”

bullet Invasion by illegal immigrants

bullet Infusions of illicit drugs

bullet Depredations of criminal enterprises organized and operated on a global scale

bullet Rampant domestic “gangster government” at the National, State and Local levels

bullet The dragooning of America as a “global policeman” in the service of special-interest groups, both foreign and domestic

bullet Schemes aimed at overthrowing the Declaration of Independence

bullet Cultural subversion, corruption, and dissolution

bullet The inherent instability and corruption of America’s monetary and banking systems

bullet A staggering burden of governmental financial liabilities

Assuming you could figure out just how a state militia would solve all those problems, there’s just one left:

What do you do with the current Idaho militia – that is, the Idaho National Guard?

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Feb 27 2010

Biting off one’s nose

Published by under Idaho

There are plenty of people in this country who are here illegally, and one effective way to get a handle on that would be to block their employment. So how far should legislators go in that direction?

In Idaho, there’s House Bill 497, backed by Representatives Phil Hart and Raul Labrador, and its statement of purpose says this: “If enacted, this legislation will allow for Idaho employers to have their state, county or city licenses suspended for knowingly employing illegal aliens. Professional licenses are excluded from the legislation. For a first offense, a license will be suspended until the employer signs an affidavit stating that the employer will not hire an unauthorized alien in the future. If the employer signs this affidavit within three (3) days of the court ruling, no suspension of the license will take place. For a second offense in a three (3) year period, the license will be suspended for up to ten (10) days. For a third offense in a three (3) year period, the license will be suspended for up to one year.”

The bill died in the House State Affairs Committee, after a motion by Representative Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs. The was followed by a blog post by the Pocatello Tea Party headlined, “Tar & Feather Rep. Andrus.” (It was a predecessor to the post, “Tar & Feather Rep. Elaine Smith; her sin had to do with the law on midwives.)

So what does Andrus have to say for himself? Well, this:

HB497 would require an employer’s license to be revoked for up to one year. I do not know the economic impact to the construction, motel and restaurant industries, but I have some experience and knowledge in agriculture. I have employed one or more foreign born workers, continuously, for more than 25 years. I have never illegally hired a worker. It is wrong. I do not condone hiring illegals – period.

Consider the consequence of an employer’s license being revoked for one year. Most agricultural employers operate under a partnership, corporation or LLC license. If the license is suddenly revoked, do the county commissioners or sheriff now come in and take over the farm or ranch and the owner (or former owner) take his family and go to a homeless shelter for sustenance? If a dairyman unexpectedly loses his license and is shut down, who now milks the cows (which may number more than a thousand on some dairies) – the humane society, to relieve pressure and pain in the udder and keep them from getting mastitis? These are realistic scenarios and no answer was given when I asked the question in the committee hearing.

It’s called thinking through the effects.

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Feb 26 2010

Oregon’s fair & balanced?

Published by under Oregon

Oregon has a new political news web site, the Oregon; we’ll doubtless be checking in for news there.

Beyond that, a little note of perspective on it is warranted.

It presents itself as a straight-up news site, its listed staff includes a political reporter and an investigative reporter, and its mission statement says, “Oregon Politico is dedicated to reporting news from the state’s capitol and government bureaucracies in a fair and balanced manner whilst promoting an open and transparent government.”

Maybe the “fair and balanced” reference there should be a clue. Dig a little deeper and check out the “copyright and legal” page, and there’s this: “This Site and all of the information it contains (including, but not limited to, news articles, video, charts, graphs, graphics and photographs) is the property of Cascade Policy Institute, unless otherwise noted.”

Cascade is not a politically or philosophically neutral organization; its front web page notes it is “Promoting public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon” – a more subtle version of “free market solutions”, essentially libertarian in view, promoted by counterpart organizations in other states. (The most recent headline on its web site: “Unemployment Insurance Extensions Appeal to the Heart but Rob the Soul.”) Such descriptions show up in the Oregon Catalyst.

This approach – of seemingly dispassionate news sources cloaking the machinery run in fact by highly ideological organizations (see also the Idaho, a project of the Idaho Freedom Foundation) seems to be a growing trend: Illusory neutrality in news production, a la Fox, spreading now to the state and maybe local level.

If there’s a complaint here, it’s not with the existence of the sites, or the independent reporting – we need all of that we can get. There are plenty of overtly partisan sites that do a good deal of digging and reporting, and a good deal of it has real value. But those sites (ranging, say, from Blue Oregon to Idaho Conservative Blogger) generally are forthright about their biases and preferences, and don’t pretend they’re something they’re not.

There’s news, and there’s news. There are all kinds of filters for news. And if you’re running your news through a filter, best to be up front with everyone about what it is.

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Feb 25 2010

The last of the experimentals?

Published by under Oregon


The Oregon Legislature’s special session is done as of mid-afternoon, a day later than most members had hoped but still three days ahead of the deadline. It was a special session not because it was called for emergency business – which ordinarily is supposed to be what even-year sessions, when they occur, are about – but as an experiment to see if even-year sessions can work reasonably well.

Evidently they can. The final hangup (and not one between parties but between House and Senate) had to do with how long the sessions in an annual-session scheme should run; those deadlines would be built into a constitutional amendment to set up annual sessions henceforth. On Wednesday (after Senate President Peter Courtney decided against giving up and adjourning), they resolved the impasse. As the Salem Statesman-Journal noted, “The total time of 195 days over a two-year cycle would be shorter than the 211 days that lawmakers have met on average over the past decade, counting the current session in its 25th day.”

A call to cut session length might be an overall voter winner in November.

They can add that to a considerable batch of legislation approved in these last three and a half weeks. The list form the House speaker’s office included these (and it’s a partial list): Continue Reading »

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Feb 25 2010

Dry times

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Time to prepare for breaking out the D-word?

The northwest’s snowpack seemed to be in pretty good shape two to three months ago. Less so now, and in places it could get pretty parched.

Only one spot in the Northwest has higher than normal accumulated precipitation: The Olympic peninsula (at about 151%). Other than that, it’s a question how relatively dry are you?

Th driest river basins (compared with the percentage four months ago in parentheses):

Washington: Spokane 65% (was 94%), Lower Snake 67% (was 103%), Upper Yakima (was 74%)

Oregon: Klamath 71% (was 74%), Hood/Sandy/Lower Deschutes 72% (was 101%), Rogue/Umpqua 74% (was 85%), Willamette 74% (was 103%).

Idaho: Henry’s Fork/Teton 60% (was 88%), Snake River above Palisades 61% (was ), Clearwater 62% (was ), Spokane 65% (was 94%), Salmon 68% (was 89%), Willow/Blackfoot/Portneuf 69% (was 73%).

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Feb 24 2010

Packin’ up

Published by under Oregon

It was a Peter Courtney moment. Presiding over the Oregon Senate, just after absorbing news from across the Rotunda as the Legislature was preparing to adjourn:

“All right, I’ll tell you what’s happening,” as if announcing social plans on a Saturday night. “The House is coming in at 2:45. They’re gonna do some stuff. Then they’re going to adjourn and come back in at 4:30. Then they’ll do some more stuff.” (Courtney’s style, some combination of informal and driven, is all his own.) The Senate would return around 5, he said, hopefully with most of the House work complete.

The exact clock times, of course, didn’t hold. But both chambers continued processing bills, and you could tell from the visitor’s gallery that staffers at least were optimistic of an early-evening adjournment. And no late glitches seemed to be lying in wait.

The latest “experimental” even-year Oregon legislative session does seem nearly over, maybe later today. It has worked; substantial legislation moved through smoothly, and the session seems about to end ahead of deadline (which was February 28).

The major loss, as now appears: The proposed constitutional amendment to allow annual sessions. The House and Senate seem positioned to simply agree to disagree. Ironic, since this session seems to have been a good Exhibit A for the proposal.

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Feb 24 2010

Some Leverage

Published by under Oregon

Jeff Kropf

We just last night caught up with the most current (streamed) episode of Leverage, the TNT series about a group of con artists, set in the Boston area but shot in Portland. The show is well done on its own merits, but we have fun picking out specific scenes at Portland we know. PGE Park and the city hall were two good recent examples.

It’s felt a little like an outlier, in that Vancouver B.C. tends to get a lot more TV and film work; it has been the leading film center on the west coast north of southern California. Among other things, shooting costs there may actually be a little lower than in Portland.

But Portland’s clout in the biz is picking up. Leverage is one factor, and another is the area’s intensive and cutting-edge digital video industry.

The Oregon House Sustainability and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on all this today, and the indications emerging suggest that more of this business may be coming: Not an explosive increase, but more. People working with Leverage were there, and show creator and runner Dean Devlin, who had planned to appear, delivered a statement.

One conclusion was that Oregon isn’t notably attractive on the immediate upfront numbers; other states have juicier governmental giveaways. (Michigan evidently is notorious for this.) But Oregon, and Portland especially, has other good advantages: Widely varied and easily accessible scenery, good infrastructure, a solid base of actors and crew to work with. The various sorts of commercial shooting business, from commercials and corporate videos to full-out entertainment programming, seems to be picking up as word of the advantages picks up. (One motion picture, niche-described as “faith-based horror,” was said to be in progress.)

The economic advantages were hyped too hard; no one spoke of it as an economic savior. But Representative Vic Gilliam, who played a bit part on Leverage, recalled Devlin telling him on set that about 140 people were working that day, nearly all Oregonians.

And if you’re in Oregon, keep a lookout for $2 bills. On item that emerged at the hearing: Devlin apparently paid out much of the Leverage staff per diems with $2 bills. If you see one in circulation, odds are that’s where it came from.

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Feb 23 2010

WA 3rd: Some shakeout

Published by under Washington

The filing deadline for congressional candidate in the open-seat Washington 3rd is still quite a way off, but the field is starting to shrink and the front-runners are looking quite a bit clearer. Even if you have to throw aside some fundraising data to reach the conclusion.

Among Republicans, the picture is beginning to look notably clear. State Representative Jaime Herrera, R-Ridgefield, seems to be picking up a lot of momentum. The one incumbent officeholder in the group (and a strong winner for the seat in 2008), she has been getting repeated mentions – beneficiary of a general atmosphere. When Washougal City Councilman Jon Russell said this week he’s dropping out of the race, he offered his support to Herrera (whose legislative seat he would like to take). Another indicator: At a Cowlitz County Republican event, Herrera took 88% of the votes in a straw poll, in the three-way race. The primary, at least, looks to be hers to lose.

The most recent financials show candidate David Castillo as the biggest money recipient ($104,172) among the Republicans, nearly double Herrera’s $55,775. But that may turn around before long. The other contender, ex-Marine David William Hedrick, Camas, seems not to have picked up a lot of speed. Herrera is emerging as a good bet for the nomination.

On the Democratic side, the odds seem to be migrating toward one of two, either state Senator Craig Pridemore or former legislator and TCW co-founder Denny Heck.

This too was clarified through a pullout, that of Representative Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver, who had a serious base of support but said she wasn’t likely to meet her fundraising targets. Work in the legislature has affected her ability to fundraise, she suggested. She also suggested she might throw her primary support to Heck.

As of the end of last year, Heck was much the largest fundraiser in the district in either party ($214,737), and he has the most interesting resume: a decade in the Washington House, work as chief of staff for former Governor Booth Gardner, deep involvement in launching TVW and a bunch of other business and civic activities.

But Pridemore, now a veteran senator at Clark County with an energetic base of support, has some real strengths and has been leveraging them well. His views – basically liberal – are more crisply identified than Heck’s, and among activists he may pick up the larger group of enthusiastic helpers.

Tough call between the two of them as yet. But one of the two of them, it is likely to be.

So who would have the advantage in this swing district come November? That’s a close call, and it may be settled by whoever runs the smarter campaign.

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Feb 22 2010

Cantwell and Wall Street

Published by under Washington


Maria Cantwell

You can’t say that no one in Washington is trying to loose the hounds on the financial high-chargers who, with their endlessly creative financing efforts, crashed the country’s economy. Not many visible people in Washington have delved deeply into this murk. But at least a couple of Northwest senators have: Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and to even a larger degree, Washington’s Maria Cantwell.

A Seattle Times piece out today is one of the few really to highlight this, although her work on big business finance goes back some years to her ongoing war on Enron. The article notes: “. . . crusading against ‘dark market’ derivatives trading? Agitating about the systemic hazards of mingling commercial and investment banking? Trash talking about the Obama administration’s finance team?” Cantwell’s been doing all that.

And, “She has introduced bills to curb such speculative trading and to allow state gambling commissions and attorneys general to oversee unregulated, or “dark market,” derivatives trading. In addition, Cantwell, along with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, wants to resurrect a strict separation between commercial banks and investment firms. At the same time, Cantwell has displayed exasperation with what she sees as inadequate regulatory actions so far. She slammed Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner as an ‘enabler’ who isn’t truly reining in Wall Street’s excesses.”

More to the ground, consider this from a Cantwell February 3 press release:

“Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said today Congress and the Obama administration must establish tough regulatory oversight and transparency in derivatives trading and commodities markets to prevent abuses that helped bring about the economic crisis. Cantwell joined commodity “end-users,” – businesses that actually trade in or use commodities such as petroleum and agriculture products – and consumer protection organizations, to advocate moving all standardized derivatives onto fully regulated public exchanges and clearinghouses. Loopholes in the House-passed bill leave up to 60 percent of the derivatives market without minimum requirements for capital behind trading positions. The resulting unregulated and highly leveraged gambling in derivatives, Cantwell said, were a major contributing factor in a financial crisis that has now become an economic crisis.”

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Feb 21 2010

Plagiarism he probably didn’t see

Published by under Oregon


Matt Wingard

Start this with a quote from Oregon state Representative Matt Wingard, R-Wilsonville, appearing in the Hillsboro Argus: “It’s amazing to me that somebody blogging in their underwear from a basement of their mom’s house can make a vicious personal smear on their Web site.”

So many are the problems with that quote, that even it’s hard to know where to start. Does the fact of easy communication in today’s technology really amaze the representative? Does he really hold with that old wheeze stereotyping bloggers? If the answers are yes, then part of what happened in the Wingard global warming plagiarism dispute starts to fall into focus – and not to the representative’s advantage.

The blogger Wingard was specifically upset with was Kari Chisholm, one of the founders of Blue Oregon and a website designer for a bunch of Democratic officeholders and candidates – the runner of a substantial business, and a far distance from Wingard’s stereotype. (Would he apply the stereotype as well, say, to Jeff Mapes of the Oregonian? Or, say, to attorney Jack Bogdanski?)

He was upset with Chisholm because the blogger had been paying attention to a House floor speech (actually a “remonstrance,” a point of order that allows members to speak on whatever subject they want) he had given, on global warming (he is an arguer against), and thought some of the words had a certain ring. Chisholm ran a check, and it turned out that they did: Most of it was taken, word for word, from the Washington Times. A few other slices came from other sources, but no more than a few words at most from Wingard himself.

Reading from someone else’s article or publication is okay, and nothing unusual. But in this case, Wingard didn’t bother to attribute any of it: To listen to his floor speech, he seemed to have created it all himself. After Chisholm called him on it, Wingard acknowledged the source in a press release and elsewhere. But not until he was called on it.

Chisholm also pointed out this: “This incident is especially damning for Wingard because he’s a trained journalist. He’s got a degree in broadcast journalism – and once worked as a journalist in Yakima, Washington.” Among journalists, plagiarism has happened, but when exposed it’s usually followed with a quick boot out of the profession.

Wingard hasn’t yet come up with a decent explanation. He said that he meant to attribute – but he didn’t until after he was publicly challenge on it. He said he didn’t have time for an attribution – but the speech lasted several minutes, and attribution would have taken seconds.

The only explanation that seems to make sense is that Wingard just didn’t know any better or wasn’t thinking. Just as, apparently, about bloggers.

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Feb 20 2010

Radio impact

Published by under Washington

Is the clout of talk radio diminishing?

Political people certainly act as if it is powerful enough, considering the bows and scrapes given to Rush Limbaugh from anyone on the right who momentarily crosses him. But as with broadcast television, it may be a lesser influence now than it was, given the competition from the web and elsewhere.

Seattle’s Blatherwatch recalled how “KVI was at the forefront of the 1994 Republican resurgence, the pre-Waco militia strutting. John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur organized and ran initiative signature campaign on-air and almost single-handedly got a measure on the ballot (later rejected by the voters) that defunded roads. The US Supreme Court upheld their right to wage that campaign on public airwaves, a huge win for talk radio. Wilbur’s now gone, and Carlson is talking to the crickets in the toughest time slot in town (3-6p). . . .

“Talk radio was in its heyday back then – the talk pie has shrunk. Conservative KVI at its peak was often in the top 10, in the market now it’s languishing at 27th. Despite KIRO’s right turn in the last few years, what was once an AM news-talking blowtorch perennially (it seemed) at no. 3, is now a wimpy FM at 18th in the market that can’t be heard in many corners of the city, much less the rest of the region.”

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Feb 19 2010

A hanging

Published by under Washington

Nothing like a hanging in a fortnight, the saying goes, to concentrate the mind. Or, maybe, prompt a fundraiser.

For all the Democrats’ problems nationally, there’s little indication (outside of a couple of polls that look like outliers) that the major Democratic figures in Washington or Oregon are in big trouble. The extreme rhetoric does show up in places, but the guess here it will mostly boomerang.

Like the blast by the TeaPartier at Asotin, unsatisfied with simply declaring Senator Patty Murray as wrong on the issues – no, she declared she wanted to hang her. (You can see this in the clip at about a half-minute in. The female speaker says: “”What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd? What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd. He got hung. And that’s what I want to do with Patty Murray.”)

How can this kind of garbage appeal to the majority of voters? Reality is, it probably won’t; and we keep seeing indicators that it’s wearing progressively thinner month by month.

Meanwhile, Murray’s campaign is using the Asotin incident as another lever for fundraising. Makes sense.

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Feb 18 2010

“The saint goes marching out”

Published by under Oregon

If you’re in favor of having medical practices at what may be the only hospital in your region determined by the doctrine of a specific religious organization, than you may find what happened in Bend to be unfortunate.

The rest of us may see it as a hopeful harbinger for the future.

The Catholic Diocese of Baker, which has been the church’s sponsor for the St. Charles Medical Center at Bend, said this week it will end that relationship:

Recently, hospital administrators and Baker Bishop Robert Vasa have “respectfully disagreed” on the meaning of some of the directives. In particular, St. Charles offers patients tubal ligations, a form of permanent female reproductive sterilization, which, Bishop Vasa says, goes against the church’s teachings.

“It is my responsibility to ensure the hospital is following Catholic principles both in name and in fact,” Bishop Vasa says. “It would be misleading for me to allow St. Charles Bend to be acknowledged as Catholic in name while I am certain that some important tenets of the ethical and religious directives are no longer being observed.”

Bishop Vasa asked St. Charles in 2007 for an audit of the hospital’s compliance with the ethical and religious directives. The hospital openly provided the bishop with the information. Since that time, Bishop Vasa and hospital officials have had a number of discussions about the future of the hospital as a Catholic institution.

In the context, this seems amicable enough – an agreement to disagree and a logical move forward. The two organizations seemed both saddened by it, and no doubt some people are: St. Charles has been a Catholic hospital for close to a century. A tradition is ending.

(In many respects, the changes may be subtle: “Mass will no longer be celebrated in the hospital’s chapel and all items considered Catholic will be removed from the hospital and returned to the church. The St. Charles name will remain the same and the cross will remain on top of the building.”)

Others from the Bend area, probably plenty of Catholics included, may see this as a tradition worth ending. The connection between religious organizations and hospitals never seemed entirely logical (in the modern era), except maybe in the sense of fostering a general sense of unifying medical provision with charitable work – and we all know how well that’s worked out. Catholics in Bend will still be able to manage their own health within the constraints of their church’s doctrine, if they choose to; but there’ll b no pressure now for non-Catholics to do so.

There are plenty of other Catholic hospitals, at present, in the Northwest. This move may reverberate.

(H/t for the post headline, to Bend or Bust.)

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Feb 17 2010

A streetcar with no name

Published by under Idaho,Oregon

Probably doesn’t feel that way right now to the Boise advocates – Mayor David Bieter among them – of a downtown streetcar, but in denying federal money to the city for that project, the feds may have done those advocates a big favor.

This marks the opportunity, which maybe some of them have been quietly hoping for, to back off.

No doubt Bieter was very serious about creating such a project; it would much change the look and feel of Boise’s downtown, and some positives likely would have come of it. But the questions about how and why it would work, and whether it was the right priority for the area, were almost overwhelming. We’ve been struck by the number of Boiseans who have been long-time passionate supporters of mass transit who could not see their way to supporting this one, even if most of the money for it was federal. Polling suggests that Boiseans overall are highly skeptical.

Streetcars are not necessarily a bad idea. Portland has a good streetcar system (linked to its light rail and bus operations), and picked up $23.2 million today for its program. Tucson and Dallas got money for streetcars too.

And for now at least, Boise city officials indicated they won’t be giving up.

But they may be well advised to see today’s decision as an opportunity to take a pause, step back, and rethink.

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Feb 17 2010

A little sunshine, at least

Published by under Oregon

Here is what health insurers would have you believe: That the free market works best when when the sellers of a product get to withhold virtually all information about it, and the consumer are best served by being left in the dark.

The Oregon Insurance Division has “finalized changes to its health insurance rate review process that make all information submitted as part of an insurance company’s rate request open to the public.” (Note that this applies only to some individual, small business and portability plans; most health insurance in Oregon is not regulated by the state at all.) The rule changes follow up on 2009 state legislation.

You might wonder that this information hasn’t been public all along. You might wonder how Oregonians could possibly assess the work of its insurance division when much of the information submitted by insurers is sealed away from public view.

There’s no wondering on the part of the insurers: They are furious at the new rules, and are threatening everything from lawsuits to pulling out of the state in response.

The Lund Report, a fine Oregon health care blog, reported:

Oregon’s five largest health insurers along with the national trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, argued in comments to the Division that the new rules would expose trade secrets, harm competition and increase rates.

Several implied they might sue. A representative for LifeWise called the rules unconstitutional, but none put it quite as succinctly as Theresa Neibert, manager of regulatory advocacy and consulting for Kaiser. “These new rules will invite instability, confusion, uneven treatment of carriers and litigation,” Neibert wrote. “This may embroil the division in costly litigation.”

The Insurance Division basically called their bluff.

Lund also notes that in theory, “Rate filings were made public starting in 2006, but consumer advocates who’ve tried to challenge premium increases since then have faced difficulties because insurers were allowed to redact key information. A case against a 26 percent increase on Regence individual health plans in 2008 is still ongoing.”

You have to know that something dark is going on when the fight to keep information – that affects our health and even lives – under wraps is this ferocious.

Kraig E. Anderson, vice president of underwriting and actuarial, ODS Companies (odious?): “We believe that larger competitors, with greater capital resources, could price their products in such a way to gain market advantage. This type of predatory pricing could lead to higher rate increases for consumers, or a situation where it is necessary for ODS to leave the market.”

Ah yes, the great threat to leave the market, should the public ask for basic information about what it is that requires insurers to pump up their premiums so massively every few months, kicking people by the millions off of health coverage and running our country fast over the cliff into bankruptcy.

Sounds from here like the insurers are making an airtight argument for a public option.

At a time when so much fear is mongered about a public health insurance option, what realistic defense of our current health insurers is even possible? There’s only one realistic answer: Health insurers have money, tons and tons of money. And money talks.

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Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.

Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. Writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh and traces his background, and what others said about him.
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.

"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.

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.


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 (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 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 (softcover)


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 (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.


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, 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 For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


    Monday mornings on KLIX-AM


    ORDER IT HERE or on

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95


    ORDER IT HERE or on

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95



    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.

    Paradox Politics


    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.

    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here