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Posts published in February 2011

Carlson: The Last Bastion?


carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles


The impending demise of the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy regarding the ability of gay Americans to serve their country ably, along with the discarding of the military’s ban on women serving in combat, has led to some interesting conversations around the Carlson kitchen table.

We have four members of the United States Marine Corps in our extended family: a cousin, who is a retired colonel; a son, who is a captain on active duty; and two nephews, who are corporals in infantry units.

Those policies were doomed because they flew in the face of the best thing the military has going for it: the last bastion of true meritocracy in our society. In all branches of the service, how one performs, not who you know or where you were educated or how wealthy your family may be, determines promotion.

Hiding one’s sexual orientation inevitably invites a form of below -the-radar discrimination that impact adversely a gay officer’s ability to advance fairly in competition with straight Marines. Likewise, most Marine advancement is premised in on an ability to lead, especially in combat. Restricting women from leading in combat zones discriminates against fair advancement.

It was inevitable that policies running counter to the principles of meritocracy, as they did, were destined to be tossed.

Understanding the context in the evolution of these issues helped me to place such outcomes in an historical framework. (more…)

Wu speaks

Is this - an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC - enough? Would additional such interviews be? Does it answer enough of the questions?

Representative David Wu says that he's receiving both medication and other treatment, and "I emphatically can do that job. I am doing that job."

"I've gotten myself in a good place," he said.

He seemed to deal well enough with some of the issues that have cropped up in the Oregonian and elsewhere - such as, following resignation of his campaign treasurer, his plan to serve in that role. (He says it'll be only temporary and brief.) But not all have been resolved.

You get the sense that his political future may be resolved though, one way or another, in the next week or two.

Election on the cheap, or a test pilot?

Donna Nelson
King County Conservation District

The King County Conservation District is one of those obscure limited-purpose districts, this one tasked with "helping the people of King County manage their natural resources. We educate landowners, schools, scientists, consultants and agencies in how to recognize problem situations and how to avoid creating them. We also provide technical assistance in solving their problems. We promote conservation through demonstration projects, educational events, providing technical assistance and, in some cases, providing or pointing the way to funds which may be available for projects. The King CD has no regulatory or enforcement authority. We only work with those who choose to work with us." It has a modest budget of $6 million.

It is, however, run by an elected governing board. Its population base is enormous, close to two million people, with more than a million people eligible to vote. So if it is to run an election on its own election day, as is about to happen, the cost would run into multiple millions of dollars - a possibly ruinous amount for this small agency - if it were run according to the traditional polling-place approach. Since Washington has in essence moved on to the mail-in ballot system, the cost is a good deal less, but still would amount to a million dollars or so.

So, in holding an election to fill one of the board seats (there are four candidates), the district is trying something new, something that might be coming your way (even far from King County) one day: On line voting. A contractor, Election Trust LLC from Bellevue, is being paid $50,000 to run it.

Is it secure? Can the vote be trusted? Such are the questions the KCCD is dealing with.

Here are some of the pieces of how the district describes it: "This election features new, convenient and secure on-line voting. Voters may vote from their home, business or other computer locations. ... You must be registered to vote in King County (excluding residents of cities that are not members of the King Conservation District: Enumclaw, Federal Way, Milton, Pacific and Skykomish). ... On-line voting requires a voter to have access to an email account and internet connectivity. Note that more than one voter can use the same email address. You will be required to complete a two-step process: Step 1 - Confirm Voter Eligibility: Submit a signed affidavit by email (scanned copy), fax or US mail. We suggest voter applications submitted by US mail should be postmarked no later than March 11. Step 2 - Vote On-line:Once your eligibility is confirmed, a personal identification number (PIN) will be issued by email with complete online voting access information. Note: Please allow up to 48 hours after application for voting instructions and credentials to be issued. 4. How do I vote in-person? You may vote in-person at the King CD on March 15 between the hours of 9:00 am - 9:00 pm. In-person voters should bring proper identification."

Let's keep watch on how well this works. You can bet a lot of elections officials will be.

This week in the Digests

Obama at Hillsboro
President Barack Obama visiting Intel at Hillsboro. (vidcap/White House stream)

Lots of legislative activity - new legislation, still - in this week's Public Affairs Digests for Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Also a lot else, including last week's presidential visit to Hillsboro.

Some of the larger stories in the Washington edition:

- NW leaders say they’ll take rail money
- McGinn vetoes Alaskan Way deal
- Senators propose freight act
- Workplace deaths rise in Washington
- Reporting on extreme tides

In the Oregon edition:

- Obama makes Hillsboro visit
- Kitzhaber names department heads
- Roberts named to Metro Council
- Ag amounts to 15% of Oregon economy
- Mollala River measure returns
- $48 million for state health insurance
- New Blue Book out in e-firm first

In the Idaho edition:

- Revisions offered on Luna plan
- Idaho Power signs four wind agreements
- Meridian bans smoking in parks
- Crapo backs monument limit bill
- Geddes on his new job

Catching med costs where they happen

This, Senate Bill 741, has the potential to be one of the most important things the legislature of Oregon - or of any other state this year - does:

Establishes Hospital Cost Commission to regulate billed charges for hospital services. Specifies duties, powers and functions of commission. Provides remedy for individual or third party payer that is billed unreasonable hospital charges. Establishes Hospital Cost Commission Fund. Continuously appropriates moneys in fund to commission for purposes of carrying out provisions of Act.

The federal budget deficit and ongoing debt, and the growth of state budgets, relate more to ballooning health care costs than to any other single factor. There's no one single way to go after it, but seriously bearing down on the explosive costs of hospital-related expenses surely would have to be one of the most productive.

The bill comes Senator Lee Beyer, D-Springfield. On Thursday, on a visit to Portland, he and Governor John Kitzhaber released another bill, Senate Bill 766, which would all for creation of economic zones around the state, simplifying land use requirements in some places. Beyer said that it "will solve one of the biggest problems facing this state's economic recovery." It has some real promise.

But that of 741 seems even greater.

The web, the connections

Since our post some days back about some of the financial contributions and corporate ties between those involved with public school administration and strategy in Idaho - the links between Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, the education business K12, the Albertson Foundation and others - we've fielded a clutch of additional emails on the subject. The list of particulars has grown to an impressive length.

We may revisit it, putting some of those pieces in place. If we do, one of the main initial outlines will be an Associated Press story out of Boise by John Miller, probably the best single explanatory news article from Idaho so far this year, pulling together in clear terms how many of these pieces fit together. It's a little longish, but click the link and take the time to read it, now. Among other things, your sense of what the high-profile, much-admired and highly-influential J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has become and is about, may change forever.

It is compelling, essential reading - especially if you're from Idaho. Useful even if not, because this kind of thing is going on in many more places as well.

Seattle Times: Legalize it

Is this the first Northwest metro paper to explicitly, no question about it, call for legalizing marijuana? Believe so.

Says the Seattle Times today:

"MARIJUANA should be legalized, regulated and taxed. The push to repeal federal prohibition should come from the states, and it should begin with the state of Washington."

It is clearly-stated and well-reasoned, not with arguments especially new but which have become increasingly undeniable. Such as this point:

"There is a deep urge among parents to say: "No. Don't allow it. We don't want it." We understand the feeling. We have felt it ourselves. Certainly the life of a parent would be easier if everyone had no choice but to be straight and sober all the time. But an intoxicant-free world is not the one we have, nor is it the one most adults want. Marijuana is available now. If your child doesn't smoke it, maybe it is because your parenting works. But prohibition has not worked."

Two statements

After President Barack Obama released his budget, Representative Doc Hastings, of Washington's 4th district, had this to say - a statement generally similar to that of many other Republican House members:

"“In recent years, Congress and the White House grew government and spent trillions that we don’t have – from bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry to the health care law to stimulus spending and more. Unfortunately, President Obama’s budget proposal continues down the same path of massive spending and deeper deficits. The higher taxes and bigger government included in his budget ignore the reality of the budget crisis facing our nation and will harm efforts to create private sector jobs and revive our economy. As a result of the Washington, DC spending spree, it is even more difficult to get our fiscal house in order."

The same day, on the subject of funding for the Hanford project (which is in his district), there was this:

“In terms of Hanford cleanup, the requests for ORP and RL when taken together are certainly sufficient to keep cleanup progress moving forward. I have questions though about the tradeoffs associated with increasing funding for WTP at the expense of critical projects within the Richland Operations Office."

He did say, later, that "a distinction can and should be made between activities that the government has a legal obligation to fund and those that are optional." That's often, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

Sources of emotion

Imagine that you have, scattered around your state, sworn police officers who have reason to arrest someone violating a state law, but are barred from taking them to court - to pursuing action against them. There you have the situation of the tribal police in Idaho. And there, after a vote in the Idaho House today which could have changed matters, the situation remains.

The statement of purpose of House Bill 111 says that it "authorizes law enforcement officers employed by a federally recognized Indian tribe in Idaho to exercise powers given to peace officers pursuant to, and in accordance with, the laws of the state of Idaho, within the
boundaries of the reservation of the tribe employing the law enforcement officer" - allows a tribal officer to enforce state law inside the reservation (doesn't cover enforcement outside of it). And, "There is no negative fiscal impact to state or local government. The Indian tribe bears the expense of POST training under current law, which will continue. Positive fiscal impacts may result from the addition of qualified law enforcement officers employed by a federally recognized Indian tribe within the state of Idaho in the Indian reservation rural areas, without county or city expense."

If you're interested in stronger law enforcement, without even raising taxes, this should seem to be up your alley. It was backed by a conservative Republican, Representative Rich Wills of Glenns Ferry, a retired state trooper who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. Sounds like a slam dunk.

But no; the House rejected it today, 34-35.

Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review reported that Wills "said he’s received hundreds of calls and e-mails threatening him and questioning his integrity for backing the bill. “I’ve had threats I’d better never go into the county again,” he said. “I’ve been called all kinds of sundry names.” Opponents raised fears, ranging from the tribe taking away the guns of non-Indians who have concealed weapons permits and pass through the reservation to provisions of tribal code being used to impose civil penalties on non-Indians - something that already can occur today on the reservation. “This doesn’t change anything about that,” Wills said. Instead, it addressed criminal violations - saying tribal police officers could enforce state law against non-tribal members, but they’d have to be cited under state law and into state court."

There was also this, from Representative Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, who was in favor of the bill, and who said during debate that he was "stunned to hear that the first question a dispatcher asks in Benewah County is whether the person calling in with an emergency is an Indian or non-Indian. That’s just not right, he said."

Some of the bill's opponents argued that the opposition really didn't have racial undertones. Put that pitch in the category of a tough sell.

Uneasy nullification debating

This would not seem to be, and rationally shouldn't be, a part of current Northwest political debate. But mull over this quote: "Our states have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitition - no one of them ever having been a state out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence; and the new ones each came into the Union directly from a condition of dependence ..."

You'll note that analysis: The states did not exist before the union did; before the union, they were colonies. This is what a plain reading of history tells us. (There is an excellent point-by-point description of this in Garry Wills' fine book A Necessary Evil, among many other places.) And the quote? That came from Abraham Lincoln, a Republican the last we checked. And whose actions pretty much put paid to the whole nullification concept almost 150 years ago.

Except in Idaho (a territory Lincoln helped bring into being), which is what this has to do with politics today in the Northwest. Plain facts misunderstood, to a truly eye-rolling degree, led today in the Idaho House to some of the most peculiar and poorly thought-out legislative debate we've ever heard on the floor of a legislative chamber in the region.

The measure in question is House Bill 117, which in essence says that Idaho won't obey the 2010 federal health care law. Its statement of purpose said "The purpose of this legislation is to declare the two federal laws: Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152, void and of no ef fect in the state of Idaho." The bill passed the House 49-20 - overwhelmingly.

Veteran Representative JoAn Wood remarked that "we have the right to dissent," as of course we all do. Her remark, in this context, suggests that we also all have the right to pick and chose which laws we want to obey.

Representative Tom Trail asked whether the state could simply decide unilaterally to not obey any number of other federal laws (notably unfunded mandates). Sponsor Representative Vito Barbieri didn't seem to answer directly, but by implication his answer was yes: "I do not believe that states are creatures of the federal government ... the states voluntarily joined the compact with respect to the other states." (Which as noted above, wasn't the case.)

Trail wryly responded, "United we stand, divided we fall."

The ethics-troubled Representative Phil Hart extensively quoted the Declaration of Independence as the founding document for the nation. It wasn't; the constitution was. Barbieri said in his closing argument that "This issue was resolved in the Nuremberg trials" - comparing intended nullification of a federal law aimed at extending health care to resistance to Nazi holocaust orders.

The vote, as noted, wasn't close. The bill goes for action next to the Idaho Senate.

ALSO A suggested trailer bill for this one: A secession bill.

ALSO A Facebook comment from Coeur d'Alene City Council member Mike Kennedy (also cross-posted on the Huckleberries blog): "I think I'll make a motion at our next City Council meeting to nullify Idaho's sales tax formula and keep our revenue here locally."