The widespread outrage over Wall Street and the company’s financial structure seems to be finding an outlet in the Occupy movement – outgrowths, evidently, of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have gone on for some days now.

Just lately – in the last few days, especially just today – the movement has gone viral and flash, drawing “Occupy” crowds in places all over the country. Most large cities, and quite a few small ones, seem to have events going on. Could be an interesting weekend.

You can find a bunch of them by searching through Facebook. A quick run of searches showed events in Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Boise (OccupyBOI), and Spokane; there could be more. They report holding General Assembly meetings; little more than that seemed to be immediately clear, though reports are flooding through the social media.

Occupy Portland’s website says that “Occupy Portland is a nonviolent movement for accountability in the United States government. At 12PM on October 6th, 2011 we will assemble at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 1020 Southwest Naito Parkway in Portland, OR. We will gather in solidarity with the ongoing protest in New York City, Occupy Wall Street, and the growing number of cities whose people will no longer sit back watching corporate and special interests run their government. We are citizens of the United States, and this country is ours. We will take it back.”

A selection of comment scraps from the Occupy in Portland (to judge from a picture, located on the Willamette waterfront):

“we have more showing for the meeting than NY has for the protest it looks like to me. WELL DONE!!”

“I belong to 107 groups. This, by far, is THE most organized group i’ve ever seen. We should add people from different occupation sites so they can see what we are doing in portland”

“i’m confused, has this already started? everything says it starts oct 6

“This is the first general assembly.. started at 7 down at the waterfront.”

“doesn’t say when it ends…”

“Maybe it won’t? anyone bring sleeping bags? :)”

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Donna Nelson
Michael Baumgartner

Twitter, like the other social networks (why hasn’t a socnet formulation taken hold?), is a potentially big tool for candidates. But tools can be used in both helpful and dangerous ways.

Washington state Senator Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, asked of his Twitter followers what sounded like a reasonable question: “The past couple of weeks many have asked me to explore running for US Senate. What do you think?” That would be as the Republican candidate against incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell, who so far has no major challengers – meaning the field is pretty much open on the Republican side.

Nothing at all wrong with Baumgartner’s tweet – other candidates have and will throw such ideas out there, and it can be a useful tack – other than that you can’t control what the reply might be.

In this case, as the news site Publicola reported, “Twenty hours on, Baumgartner, who can lean moderate on social and environmental issues, has only gotten two reactions; just one person retweeted it and one person said it would be her “dream come true.” Both folks described themselves as Tea Partiers.”

Or maybe Baumgartner just learned something useful …

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The early take, here as (broadly) elsewhere, has been that the Washington governor’s race for the year upcoming, between Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee, will be highly competitive. A couple of new polls seem to reinforce that.

Both give McKenna, at present, a modest lead.

Moore Information puts McKenna at 37%, Inslee at 32%, and 26% “don’t know.” Moore’s analysis concludes, “At this stage of the campaign, this race appears very fluid with almost one-in-three voters not opting for either candidate. However, among those who have decided, McKenna is hitting the right targets and doing well with the audiences he must have to win statewide.”

Moore is, it should be noted, considered a Republican pollster with some controversies in the past.

That said, a SurveyUSA poll (data collected a week ago) gives McKenna 44% and Inslee 38% – numbers not far off from Moore’s (and more favorable to the Republican). The weight of polling results continues to give McKenna a modest lead.

Whether it will last is another matter. McKenna is fairly well known already, having been elected twice statewide, while Inslee has been well known only in his district north of Seattle. Over the course of more that a year of campaigning, both will likely become about equally well known.

And there is some ongoing weight to running as a Democrat in Washington. In the race to replace McKenna as attorney general, two King County Council members, comparably well known (that is, not very outside of King), have announced and were polled; Democrat Bob Ferguson scored 39% and Republican Reagan Dunn 34%.

The governor’s race looks plenty hot from here.

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And it’s still an ugly picture. We check out the economists’ reports day by day, and they don’t seem to be getting any better.

Here’s the unabridged executive summary from the report out today from the Washington Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. See how many bright spots you can find in it.

 We are in the fragile aftermath of the Great Recession where a return to normalcy seems like a mirage in the desert – the closer we get to it, the further it moves away. Fear and uncertainty have overwhelmed consumer and business behavior. The risk of a recession has increased significantly.
 Revisions to U.S. real Gross Domestic Product show a much deeper recession than previously estimated, and a U.S. economy close to stall speed in the first half of this year.
 Our previous forecast prior to these data revisions had expected growth regaining momentum in the second half of 2011 as oil prices stabilized, and supply chains were restored with Japan rebuilding. Now that it turns out that there was no growth momentum in the first half of the year, a second half return to momentum seems unlikely.
 The likelihood of a full-blown European debt crisis, and the consequent ripples across the global economy have increased.
 Washington’s economy is not immune to national and global economic developments. Like the nation, the outlook for the Washington economy has weakened since June.
 The employment recovery in Washington this recession has been the weakest of any post-war recovery. Labor market conditions since the June forecast have been worse than anticipated.
 The recovery in state housing and construction will be later than previously expected. New construction faces headwinds from rising foreclosures and falling home prices.
 Washington is still expected to outperform the nation in employment and personal income growth, although the outlook for both has been lowered substantially.
 General Fund-State revenue for the 2011-13 biennium is now forecasted to be $1.4 billion less than forecasted in June.
 The preliminary General Fund-State total for the 2009-11 biennium came in $24.9 million below the June forecast.
 The downside risks to the outlook have risen and exceed the upside risks by a wide margin.

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Suzanne Bonamici, one of the three main Democrats running for the open Oreogn 1st district seat, is the first out with a TV ad. Simple and basic: It shows her speaking directly to the viewer, with a message area Democrats likely will approve.

It matches up with her stump message and approach. We watched her speak last Thursday to the Yamhill County Democrats at McMinnville, and you could say it was a longer version of what you see in the ad: Simply spoken (she didn’t come off like a lawyer, which she is, but did seem to be herself) and not flashy, but likable and direct.

Her message, or at least her stand on issues, doesn’t seem so far a lot different from her primary competitors, Brad Avakian and Brad Witt. But she is broadcasting it first.

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You may notice a new polling box to the right on this page. With your help, we’ll start running weekly polls here and several other locations (such as Facebook). The poll results on each location will be open; at the end of the week, we’ll collect them and run them in our weekly Public Affairs Digests (Washington, Oregon, Idaho).

This first is about predicting who will be the next governor of Washington. If you have a question you’d like to see here next week, let us know.

All the usual caveats apply. These are self-selecting and unscientific. Still, they may be of some interest as a reflection of thinking (at least, of this site’s readers). So have at it.

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The falls, formally, into the category of a recommendation only – the same as if any other group of six Idahoans proposed a statewide redistricting plan (as some have).

But because these six are the former redistricting commissioners, this particular proposal – Final Compromise 2 (does that sound like a bad movie name?) – could carry some weight. When the new districters get together (the three Democrats are named, the Republicans not quite yet) they could be tempted by the idea of just adopting this one and cruising home, in a day or two, as opposed to some much longer procedure.

It evidently has support from both parties; their chairs will hold a joint press availability on Monday seemingly in support of it.

Partisan bottom line?

Democrats ought to be delirious about it. What they’re getting here is much better than they have had any real right to expect. Central Coeur d’Alene is intact, providing competition there. Moscow and Lewiston still anchor districts and should remain competitive. Boise has a rough equivalent to the current very-Democratic District 19 plus three other competitive district – roughly the setup they have had. The Blaine County-based district will continue with about the same setup as before. The Pocatello area will have one Democratic-based district and one other that should be competitive. That’s about what Democrats have now, and considering that most of the last decade’s growth has been in Republican areas, doing this well would have seemed improbable at the start of the process.

Who will be unhappy? On a partisan level, it’s not as if Republicans somehow gave away the store; the map does not put their huge majorities at any risk. But a number of incumbents will be put at risk – at least three pairs of Republican senators (Shawn Keough and Joyce Broadsword in the Panhandle, Patti Anne Lodge and John McGee in Canyon County, and Denton Darrington and Dean Cameron in the Magic Valley) will be thrown into districts together, presumably knocking out one in each case. And the people in the southeast corner of the state, who’ve had a bum district boundary linking Teton County through forested mountains south to Bear Lake and Franklin Counties, will see that get worse: That district looks about the same, with Oneida County tacked on in the southwest.

There are issues. But there’ll also be a strong temptation to just go ahead and adopt a plan evidently accepted, at this point, by both political parties. How often do you get that?

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Washington Governor Chris Gregoire‘s call for a special legislative session for November sounds on its face questionable. Legislators will be coming to town in regular session not so long after that – probably within a month after it adjourns.

Still, the budget numbers have been worsening at a heady clip, so the argument for action sooner than even that does have some weight. Olympia Republican Representative Gary Alexander, after the announcement: “Budget leaders can begin the process now. The longer we wait to address the issue, the harder the budget problem will be to solve.” Not a bad point.

And there is one other. By focusing on budget adjustments in December, there should be a better ability to focus on other things – economic problem-solving – in January. That clearly seemed a driver in Gregoire’s thinking; her release on the call noted she wanted “to spend the regular session focusing on policy bills to support job creation and economic growth.” Passage might be a little easier than way, with fewer opportunities, in some quarter or other, for hostage-taking.

So how long will be the special be? Don’t figure on a lot less than 30 days, though there’ll surely be a strong push to get home well in advance of Christmas.

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Four years ago, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was all the rage among Idaho Republicans. It didn’t matter much, since by the time Idaho Republicans got to vote in the primary Romney had dropped out and John McCain had the nomination in hand. But Romney was the clear early favorite among Idaho Republicans, at the upper reaches of elective office and party structure, and well down below.

This year, not so much – or rather, things are a lot more complicated.

For one thing, Idaho Republicans’ presidential preferences – at the nomination stages – will matter a lot more in 2012, since the party has chosen to move (as the Democrats did a while back) to an earlier caucus, probably March 6. That means the party’s activists actually will play a meaningful role in the nomination process.

And there are indicators to what that could mean.

Romney again has the support of much of Idaho’s Republican leadership. His Idaho co-chairs are Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and U.S. Senator Jim Risch and the steering committee (Representative Mike Simpson, Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Luna, State Controller Donna Jones, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill, Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke and House Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts) could hardly be improved on as a measure of support from Idaho Republican elected officials.

But what about voter support? What about the activists who outnumber the leadership?

The Kootenai County Reagan Republicans have been running a straw poll in the area – picking up votes mostly at a regional fair but in other locations as well – and have announced results, which suggest different preferences among Republican voters.

First place went to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who wasn’t even yet in the race when many of the votes were cast, with 123, or about a quarter of the total. Second place went to Texas Representative Ron Paul with 55 votes, and third to Sarah Palin (who’s not in the race) with 54.

And Romney? Tied for fourth (with Representative Michelle Bachman) at 39 votes.

We’ve been seeing pieces of evidence for some time that there are two Idaho Republican parties. Add these little factoids to the list.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The weekend of September 17-18 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of one of my youthful non-baseball heroes—-Dag Hammarskjold. Most Idahoans and many readers will ask who?

He was the seemingly faceless Swedish bureaucrat selected as a compromise candidate by the five-member United Nations Security Council in 1953 to be the second Secretary-General of the world organization set up after World War II to promote peaceful resolution of the world’s conflicts and prevent nuclear conflagration.

Almost single-handedly he willed the UN into a major force in world affairs. He died at the age of 56, fittingly, in September of 1961 when his plane crashed while on a mission to Africa to try to resolve tribal conflicts with UN peacekeeping troops stationed in what was then Rhodesia.

I was 15 at the time of Hammarskjold’s passing, and like most teenagers, while I may have noted his death, it mattered little to me. He became a hero three years later with the posthumous publication of a book containing his private musings called “Markings.”

Something about that book moved me beyond a teen-age fixation just on girls, baseball, and the latest hit songs. So, I pulled out my hard-back copy of Markings the other day and reread the numerous short thoughts Hammarskjold jotted down during his life.

I was surprised at how marked up my copy of Markings was. While some notations could be ascribed to youthful intellectual pretensions, other reactions reflected a growing interest in religious mysticism.

Hammarskjold was my first encounter with a mystic and directly led to a minor in comparative religions while a Columbia undergraduate as well as more readings of the mystic poets and philosophers throughout history.

Essentially a mystic is someone who comes to understand that not only is life itself at heart a mystery which we all have to feel our way through, but that the Almighty creative power we call God is also ineffably indescribable and intellectually unknowable. Our soul, our spirit, however, can feel the Almighty’s presence, and through the power of Divine Love can find a relationship or union with the mysterious force that saw our being born and to whom we return at journey’s end.

Hammarskjold’s Markings rightly has taken its place next to similar works like Blas� Pascal’s Pensee’s and St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.

Paradoxically, there is also one of Hammarskjold’s thoughts referring to a person’s character that he pondered in several of his entries, and I synthesized these four “markings” into a quote I sometimes use:

Show me a man with no enemies and I’ll show you a man with no character. If one stands for anything in this world, one makes enemies.

This is so true. We encounter so many during the course of life who avoid conflict at all cost, who constantly try to please by appeasing, who in the face of not pure evil but the more insidious ambiguous and questionable conduct, look the other way.

The few in politics who have character and moral rectitude easily stand out—the Cecil Andrus’, the Mark Hatfields, the Jay Hammonds, the Mike O’Callaghan’s, the Scott Mathesons, the Marc Racicot’s—because they are so rare.

Neither is it cynical to pick out the right kind of enemy to take advantage of the contrast in character to help the public understand and differentiate one from the herd of mediocre politicians.

When I was a press secretary I sometime winced at Governor Andrus’ proclivity to take a shot at a former gubernatorial competitor, former State Representative Vernon Ravenscroft, from Tuttle. One day I asked why he nailed Vern at every turn.

He explained to me why. Vern had run against Andrus as a Democrat in 1970. After losing that race Vern switched parties and in the process left a good mutual friend, Joe McCarter, from Corral, his campaign chairman (who Andrus quickly drew into his campaign) holding the bag on some campaign debt. Andrus believes the public is always innately suspicious of party-switchers believing they are seeing crass opportunism at work, not principle.

Secondly, Vern became a shill for every corporate interest around including Idaho Power and its desire to build the ill-considered Pioneer Power Plant. Vernon also went on to run as a Republican for Lieutenant Governor against John Evans in 1974.

Andrus, knowing he could never consider becoming a cabinet officer in 1977 if the Democrats won the White House if it meant turning the state over to Ravenscroft, poured thousands of dollars worth of tv advertising into Evans’ race to ensure the Malad senator would be his Lt. Governor.

Ravenscroft of course bore much malice towards Andrus for all of this, but as far as Andrus was concerned, Vernon was “the right kind of enemy.” And, as Dag Hammarskjold would point out, such an enemy underscored that Andrus was a man of character.

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris Carlson served as press secretary to former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus for ten years. He is the founding partner of the Gallatin Group, is now retired and he and his wife, Marcia, reside at Medimont.

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The announcement by Dave Hunt, the Oregon state House member who is a former speaker, that he’s running for chair of the Clackamas County commission, isn’t a shock; word has been circulating for a while.

The sheer number of Democrats departing the Oregon Legislature in the last few months, or seeking to, is interesting, though: A couple now running for Congress, another moving into the Kitzhaber Administration.

One guess that redistricting might have had something to do with this could seem reasonable, but doesn’t hold up. Like other legislators, Hunt was not thrown into a district-untenable situation for 2012; he ought to have been able to manage well enough in his new district. Maybe better than in Clackamas as a whole, since Clackamas is a politically marginal county. Party registration does tip to the Democrats (a reversal from a decade ago), but not by a lot. And more-Democratic Washington County has in recent times chosen more-conservative over more-liberal county officials. Clackamas chair isn’t a slam dump.

But it could have an effect on politics in 2012 in Clackamas overall. And a strong candidate running countywide could have some benefit for Democrats in the marginal areas.

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From Linda Watkins, Ridenbaugh Press editor who works with rescue dogs through PEt Adoption Network.

Facebook and several Oregon news stations are full of updates today about a “rescue bus” that broke down in Grants Pass yesterday. The bus was carrying approximately 100 small dogs released from the East County Animal Shelter in Los Angeles and bound for Sunny Sky’s Rescue in Puyallup. Included is one Chihuahua who just had puppies, and another ready to whelp at any moment.

At the last report state police had arrived with water, help, and volunteers. Groups on Facebook have set up donation accounts to help the rescue with bus repairs, possible vehicle rentals, and/or housing for the dogs if needed.

It’s turning into a heartwarming story of people trying to help otherwise doomed animals and needing help themselves – another story of the community stepping up to help neighbors in need.

But the drama of the story overshadows the real question: Why in the heck are 100+ dogs being shipped out of California to Washington state for adoption? Aside from the fact that such a long drive can’t be good for small dogs who already have some health issues, surely with their population California shouldn’t have any problem finding homes for these dogs in-state?

Sadly the answer is “no” – the dogs are being shipped north because there are no homes for them in California. Nor is there enough space in the California shelters or rescues for these dogs.

In the last three years the number of dogs being shipped out of California has skyrocketed.

At first there were single-dog or at most a half-dozen to a dozen-dog transports from Northern and North Coast shelters. It made sense as these shelters are actually closer and more easily accessible for Oregon rescues. Then a few Central California shelter dogs were added into the mix. And that made sense too as they were usually sending breeds in high demand up north, but in short supply – breeds like Chihuahuas, small terriers, poodles, etc. It seems that most of the dogs in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia shelters were larger, outdoorsy, active breeds and the small house and lap dogs were hard to come by. So providing a few of California’s excess “ankle biters” the opportunity to have a good home seemed like a good thing to do.

As the rescue networks grew, and the transportation up I-5 became more established, the numbers of dogs increased, and they started coming from shelters further south: Stanislaus County/Modesto, Kern County/Bakersfield, Lancaster, San Bernardino/Devore, Los Angeles, and Orange County. And as word of the abysmal conditions in these shelters spread, more rescues (and shelters) offered to take more of these easily adoptable small dogs – resulting in multiple transports that regularly ferry 40 to 100 dogs per week to the Pacific Northwest.

There’s no doubt that these dogs needed to get out of the shelters: Each day I hear (and have experienced) more horror stories about the conditions in the California shelters: overcrowded and underfunded, many of them contain twice the number of animals they were built to hold; dogs sit in overcrowded cages and fight for food as they are not able to be fed separately; the lack of volunteers and shelter staff means little exercise or attention and minimal sanitation; dogs coming in as strays with broken bones or other injuries are left without medical treatment and at the end of their “stray hold” period are either euthanized or offered to “rescue only;” kennel cough is rampant because of the overcrowding and lack of sanitation. Dogs come out of the shelters dehydrated, underfed, severely depressed, suffering from PTSD, and severe upper respiratory diseases as well as parasites, parvo, and distemper.

A healthy, well-adjusted dog will have some chance of getting out onto the adoption floor, but for each dog that makes it that far, several will go into the “holding” area where they will eventually be killed unless a rescue can find room to take them. So it’s no wonder that shelters and rescues in other states are stepping up to help these dogs – but the cost is great.

There is, of course the actual, medical costs. One rescue just spent close to $1,000 on a younger female cattle dog who arrived with a pyometra infection, one eye destroyed due to glaucoma, and the other ulcerated and infected from some injury. She was an owner surrender – her owner had dumped her at the shelter along with two pit bulls who were put down immediately. Sandy was allowed to live another week without any vet treatment and in severe pain. The day before she was scheduled to be killed a rescue was found, she was pulled and sent on her way to Washington. She’s a lovely dog and after two surgeries (including removal of both eyes) and an ear cleaning that had to be done while she was under anesthetic because it was so advanced and painful, she’s going to be a wonderful companion for someone. But at what cost?

As Sandy’s foster mom commented when she saw the information on another dog in a nearby Washington shelter: “If I didn’t have Sandy, I’d take that one in an instant.” And that’s the other cost of bringing in scores of dogs from another state. I’ve talked with many of the smaller, more isolated shelters around Washington and Oregon and they’re all saying the same thing: They rely on the larger shelters and rescues in more accessible and heavily populated area to help get their dogs into more adoptable situations – but there isn’t as much room anymore because those shelters are now taking the California dogs – which they can move a lot more quickly than some undersocialized mutt from the Eastern Oregon desert.

The other issue is that no matter how many dogs are taken out of California (and similar situations exist in other parts of the country – dogs in crowded Southeastern shelters are shipped to the Northeast and eastern Canada, for instance) the supply does not appear to be lessening. In the last few years as efforts to put puppy mills out of business have increased, the owners of those puppy mills have done what you’d expect of irresponsible breeders: they’ve continued to breed, and any dogs they can’t get rid of, they dump at the shelters, or they dump them by the side of the road where they’re picked up by animal control.

The vast majority of these dogs are Chihuahuas and Chi mixes – the little dogs that became a fashion accessory for the Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears wanna-bes. When these little girls discovered that the dogs needed actual care and attention they got rid of them – at a shelter or in a dumpster – where ever it happened to be convenient to drop them off. And while the demand has somewhat waned, the puppy mills are still making some money and so are continuing to produce more dogs. But they’re not selling as many, and the national movement to stop folks from buying puppy mill dogs is building so they’re not even able to dump the dogs online or by mail order.

And there’s been another development: California’s Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a “puppy mill” bill in 2009, but the state sentiment was strongly in support of the bill and in the years since four California cities (West Hollywood, Glendale, Hermosa Beach, and South Lake Tahoe) have passed ordinances banning the sale of puppy mill dogs within the city limits. So while at this stage it appears that the market for these puppy mill dogs is decreasing, there does not seem to be a reduction in the production and the excess is being dumped in the shelters.

There’s also a social/cultural element in California that many people forget: Especially in the central and southern part of the state, there are two deeply divided societies. When most people think of the state, they think of the ultra-liberal San Francisco Bay area and Silicon Valley; and the trendy, liberal, Hollywood/Los Angeles movie enclave. Remember, however that California’s roots are deeply planted in the agricultural areas of the Central and San Joaquin valleys – the areas where many of the large, overcrowded shelters are located. Within these areas the dominant culture is one of a more rural, farming, utilitarian nature – one that views animals more as tools or farm equipment than as the “furpeople” of their western neighbors.

Economically strapped, especially in today’s economy, the residents of the eastern agricultural valleys don’t have the time, the money, or the cultural imperative to get their dogs spayed or neutered. If the dog has pups and you don’t want the pups there are three alternatives: kill them, dump them, or drop them at the shelter. And if a dog wanders off finding it is not usually a high priority activity.

Between the valley culture and the puppy mills, there’s no wonder that California’s shelters are stuffed to the gills. The question now is what do we do about it? Because much as we’d like to, we can’t continue to clean up California’s mess – we don’t have the room, and we don’t have the money.

There are many fine rescue groups in California, and they’re doing the best they can to address the problem, but in a state of 37 million residents, the rescue community is a drop in the bucket and they have yet to find their voice to call attention to this issue. So they’ve reached out to their neighbors, and we’ve done what neighbors do: We’ve tried to help. Unfortunately, without some effort on the part of California to control the problem, our help will not be enough and there’s a good chance we’ll end up hurting our own states in the process.

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Up to this point, the effort to end flat criminalization of marijuana – as opposed to the idea of legalizing, tax and regulating it possibly along the lines of alcohol – has gotten support from occasional politicians, of both parties at various times. But the breadth of support has been limited. It takes broad support to make a major change.

Which makes this of interest: The Washington Democratic Party has gone on record endorsing such a measure: Backing Initiative 502, to legalize, tax and regulate.

That action was taken by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee voted 75-43 on Saturday afternoon. Will be interesting to see what a number of Democratic officeholders in the state, most of whom have not gotten on board the idea, will have to say about it. But you do in any event get the sense that, politically, a corner is being turned.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There was some hullabaloo a couple months back about the possible establishment of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) near the Boise Airport with the People’s Republic of China.

Some members of Idaho’s Republican right wing immediately smelled a plot. Conservative Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was accused of selling off Idaho to the “Reds.” Resolutions condemning the FTZ were passed in several counties by GOP central committees. Obsequious legislators promised to introduce legislation prohibiting such heinous activity.

The media had a fine time ridiculing this paranoia by the philosophical descendents of the John Birch Society. Proponents were likened to the all-time champion communist hunting senator from Wisconsin, Joseph A. McCarthy, and his cohort in the Senate, Herman Welker, mockingly known as “Little Joe from Idaho.”

As is the case, though, beneath the hullabaloo, an element of truth is present. After all, Senators McCarthy and Welker were partially correct – there were card-carrying members of the American Communist Party working in the State Department and sympathizers in Hollywood. The issue was the excessive abuse of one’s civil liberties the witch-hunting senators applied in their zeal to save America from the threat of take over from within.

The element of truth lingering beneath the surface of this latest manifestation of a commie under every bed is the fact that the Chinese are well on their way to achieving a super power role and becoming the world’s dominant power by the end of this century. To say this is not to be paranoid. The factual evidence is already present.

Say what one wants, but the Chinese are executing a 50-year plan that will see their economy replacing ours as the world’s largest. As most military experts will testify, it is economic might that underlies true military strength, and the Chinese appear to have divined that the key to both economic and military might is controlling the production and ownership of the so-called rare earth minerals critical to the further development of technological aids in the world of computers and advanced electronics.

Statistics published by the National Mining Association indicate the Chinese already own or have a dominant position in firms controlling 96 percent of the world’s production of rare earth minerals. Some argue this reflects the realities of the demands of China’s expanding economy and is not a consequence of any strategy to dominate the future. Rather it is a necessity. Perhaps.

Idaho is a player on the chessboard of world geo-politics also, though not because of the possible establishment of a free trade zone.

To their credit Governor Otter, Senators Crapo and Risch, and Second District Congressman Mike Simpson have been strong supporters of the development by Vancouver-based Formation Metals of a new cobalt mine some 40 miles west of Salmon.

While not a rare earth metal, it was for some years a strategic metal. The government maintained stockpiles for emergencies. It is still a critical metal vital to a variety of application from medical uses to important defense uses. Despite the pledges of the owners to develop and operate the mine and the metal processing in a safe and environmentally compatible manner, and even with the support of the Idaho Conservation League, it still took over 15 years to obtain the necessary permits.

When the project is running next year it will be the only primaru cobalt mine in the western hemisphere. And don’t think the Chinese are not aware of it. Some analysts worry that if the present owners were to decide to sell there could be an interesting bidding war among some of the world’s major minerals companies. A wary eye would be needed to discern whether China wasn’t a possible silent partner in someone’s bid.

Idaho is also home to what some analysts consider to be an excellent rare earth mine site, but it is on Lemhi Pass, where Lewis and Clark first entered Idaho. Of the 17 elements considered rare earths most are present at this site, but one of them, thorium, is a radioactive element which would complicate the permitting process. Besides the federal land agency involved (the US Forest Service), as well as the various state agencies in Idaho and Montana, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be a player.

The sad complicating reality is America’s planners, as well as its corporate investors, think only of short-term returns, rather than the longer term that prevails in Chinese thinking.

To really understand what our nation is up against one should read Simon Winchester’s excellent book, “The Man Who Loved China.” It is the fascinating story of a true card-carrying British communist/socialist, Joseph Needham, a brilliant scientist and freethinking intellectual who basically proved that just about every significant thing ever invented by mankind was invented first in China often a good thousand years before it was invented in the west. The book’s appendix lists the major ones and it is simply stunning.

The book ends with the author visiting Jiuquan, the site of China’s super-secret space center, the place where the People’s Liberation Army has perfected its ICBM’s, placed with flawless launch after flawless launch dozens of satellites in space (including possible killer satellites), and sent its own men into space.

There is a huge billboard as one approaches the town near the site. In both bold Chinese and English letters the sign simply says: “Without Haste, Without Fear, We Conquer the World!”

What’s that old weather saying about “Red sun in the morning, sailor take warning”?

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris Carlson served as press secretary to former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus for ten years. He is the founding partner of the Gallatin Group, is now retired and he and his wife, Marcia, reside at Medimont.

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This morning’s reports on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s energetic talk at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was all about Microsoft’s future, which sounds from this distance to be very much a work in progress.

What sounded very much like a keynote line: “If Windows 8 is Windows re-imagined, we’re also in the process of re-imagining Microsoft.”

The catch is that Windows 8, many details of which have been circulating for a while now, sounds a little problematic. It is understandably aimed at new technology – intended to be much more tablet and mobile device-friendly – but it seems to be caught betwixt. Windows as an OS aimed specifically at desktop/laptop computers has had a coherence, but one spread among too many uses seems kinf of scattered, with pieces more useful for some places than for others.

Is that the Microsoft to come? Or just another of tech’s hairpin cruves?

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