Writings and observations

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Since the first “Lion of Idaho,” William E. Borah, was an elected United States senator (1907-1940), a case can be made that any aspirant to the title “Lioness of Idaho” also has to have been elected to public office.

If so, the clear winner is the first woman to serve Idaho in the Congress, five term congresswoman Gracie Pfost (pronounced “post”) who represented the First District from 1953 to 1963. The mere fact she could win and then hold the office through four re-elections in and of itself during the 1950’s, when very few women were being elected to anything, speaks volumes for her talent and tenacity.

She accomplished the feat in the face of tough opposition as well. Because of her relentless support for a public owned and operated single high dam in Hells Canyon, the media referred to her as “Hell’s Belle.” She believed strongly in public power, which put her at immediate odds with two powerful Idaho interests, the Idaho Power Company and Spokane’s Washington Water Power.

Both firms supported three smaller dams in Hells Canyon to be owned by Idaho Power. The ensuing acrimonious debate lasted a decade. She ended up being outmaneuvered and lost a key vote in the Interior and Insular affairs subcommittee in the late 50’s. Thus today one sees Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams on the Snake, but fortunately no High Mountain Sheep dam.

In 1962, hoping the Senate would be a better venue, Gracie gave up her safe House seat to run for the Senate seat vacated by the death of Henry Dworshak. She lost a close race (51% to 49%) to former Governor Len B. Jordan, a supporter of private power and its three smaller dams approach.

Legendary Washington, D.C., Democratic operator Robert Strauss once famously said “every politician wants you to think they were born in a log cabin they built themselves. . .” In the case of Gracie, however, it was almost true.

Biographical sketches all note she was born in a log cabin in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas in 1906. The family moved to Idaho in 1911 where she attended school until 16, quitting to take a job at Carnation Milk in Nampa. There she met and married her supervisor, Jack Pfost, who became her life-long political partner.

In 1929, she graduated from Link’s School of Business in Boise which led to temporary work in the Canyon County Clerk’s office that soon turned into a permanent job. From there she jumped into local county politics and for the next decade served as Canyon County clerk, auditor and recorder. In 1941 she was elected Canyon County treasurer and served another decade.

During the 40’s and 50’s she owned a successful real estate business as she steadily got more involved in state and national politics. In 1950 the 1st District’s congressional seat opened up with Democrat Comp White, Sr., from Clark Fork, deciding to retire. White had held the seat since 1932, but lost it in 1946, then gained it back in 1948. Gracie won the Democratic nomination but lost the general election by 783 votes to 72-year-old Republican Dr. John Wood.

With the help of Eleanor Roosevelt who criticized Wood in her popular national column for his efforts to derail the United Nations, Gracie won a rematch in 1952 by 591 votes (out of 109,000) despite the landslide election of Dwight D. Eisenhower to the presidency. She and Jack never looked back.

At various times she was described as tough, tenacious, calculating, a spitfire, but she was a hard worker who did her homework. From 1955 to 1961 she chaired the important Public Lands subcommittee of Interior and Insular Affairs.

A relentless campaigner, in her 1954 campaign she challenged her Republican opponent to a log-rolling contest at a county fair. She lost the log roll but won the election by 9,000 votes. Her constituent service was legendary with every high school graduate receiving a personal congratulatory note and every new parent receiving a book on child care.

In a historic 1956 battle for the first time two women squared off for a congressional seat as major party nominees, and she defeated Republican Louise Shadduck, herself a legendary aide to several Republican governors, by ten percentage points.

Other legislative interests included support for Alaskan statehood and for U.S. Postal Service employees, a federal school construction bill, and legislation to prop up a sagging agricultural commodities market.

Despite Jack’s sudden death in 1961 she went ahead with the Senate race. After losing, President Kennedy appointed her to a post in the Federal Housing Administration. Unbeknownst to many, she suffered from Hodgkin’s disease and died prematurely at age 59 on August 11, 1965 at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins. She is buried in Meridian.

University of Idaho Dean Katherine Aiken is working on her biography which will undoubtedly cement the case for Gracie Pfost to be designated “the lioness of Idaho.”

Chris Carlson is an Idaho writer and former press secretary for Cecil Andrus. He lives in Medimont.

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Carlson Idaho

smoke

Pulling together the weather report this afternoon for the Weekly Digests I was struck by how the weather in so many places around the Northwest is dominated by smoke from wildfires.

Not west of the Cascades – it did not figure in any of those weather reports.

But in the National Weather Service reports (which I use), the weather reports for the Boise, Idaho Falls and Pocatello areas were dominated by their image you see on this post, signalling heavy smoke. Likewise Yakima, Bend the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, and Lewiston. Idaho seems much the hardest hit overall, with eastern Washington seeing some severe spots.

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Idaho Northwest Washington

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

I’ve recently been told by good authority my life’s work has failed. Come up short. Things I’d striven for and achieved for family and loved ones are apparently overvalued in my own mind. Wanting nothing more than to be a bill-paying, flag-loving, family-values, church-going member of America’s highly valued middle class, I’m told now I’m not middle class. In reality, my loved ones and I are below the poverty line and are part of the nation’s growing needy.

Damn, where have I failed? How could I have been so foolish as to believe I’d achieved modest successes that have given me what appear now to have been false senses of accomplishment and worth? How could I have lived so long with the feelings I’d met my responsibilities and even exceeded some when, actually, I’d never risen even to that vaunted American middle class?

I’ve been drenched with the cold water of reality. My eyes should have been opened to all this before. I could have wound up buried on the downside of the flowers in potter’s field and not known. We’re all much better for this new, more accurate view of our real place on the economic food chain..
It came unexpectedly. It came at the hands of George Stephanopoulos – that finder of all things factual – that national distributor of reality in American life – that funny little former Clinton staffer on ABC Television. Him.

He was talking to – yea, grilling in his own Greek way – that paragon of America’s economic success to whom truth, vision and infinite perspective have been given – Mitt Romney. Mitt – the entire Republican Party’s official nominee for the office of President of the United States no less.

They were earnestly discussing a subject close to my heart all these decades. And this was to be the defining moment. The moment when all of life’s work would be substantiated by someone really successful. A voice to validate from his lofty economic perch the hard work of all of us who’ve spent a lifetime in the trenches – to give a realistic sense of middle class accomplishment for those of us who’ve been striving just to have a garage of our own – much less one with an two-car elevator.

Breathlessly, I listened as Mitt said “No one can say my (tax) plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people because principle number one is to keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.”

“HOORAY,” I shouted! “HOORAY for Mitt. He understands America’s middle class. He’ll take the necessary steps to protect us. In his heart, he knows feelings of lifetime accomplishment and wants to protect me. Me!”

But George wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more. He wanted the truth!

“Is $100,000 middle-income?”

There was calm. Absolute calm. Then, with an air of someone who’s been enormously successful and a tone of voice just hinting at the warmth of a banker’s heart, Mitt replied “No, middle-income is $200,000 to $250,000.”

That did it! My heart sank. A sense of misplaced accomplishment drained from my elderly body. I had just found out I was not middle class at all. That, in reality, after a life of striving and sacrifice, I was below the poverty line. Oh, what have I done? Where did I go wrong?

Suddenly, it all came crashing back. Just as Mitt had said. I had NOT asked my parents for college money. I had NOT thought of General Motors and other corporations as “people.” My wife did NOT have “a couple of Cadillac’s” like other wives. We did NOT have four homes. I did NOT put my money in foreign banks. At least I don’t think so.

And now – now – just when I was serenely comfortable in the $50,000 to $100,000 middle class I’d always worked for, it was an illusion. All of it. The home. The two cars in our cement-floored garage. The motor home (only a Class C) in the driveway. Our little trips to the Oregon coast to enjoy the company of friends – all of whom I’d thought were solid middle class. Just like us. Our little church help with the community food drives and other outreach programs. Doing the Lord’s work.
None of us – not one – had really achieved the dream of American middle class. None of it was real!

All these years – all of them – I’d believed our government statistical experts – the ones in the Bureau of the Census – that said the real middle class income was $50,000-$56,000 – or about 76% of our nation’s economic pie. The same “experts” who claimed those making $200,000 to $250,000 were only about four-point-six percent of that same pie. The real middle class.
I had believed a lie. All of it. A lie.

And now – just now – he’s saying the Medicare and the Social Security I paid for all those 50-plus years have made me dependent on big government and I’ve become just another drain on real – rich – Americans. That – in my senior years – I’ve become another blood sucker on the body politic.

If there’s anyone out there qualified to decide our future tax systems – who will pay more and who will pay less – if there’s anyone out there who respects the work ethic and support for all who occasionally need the rest of us to lift them up – I’m certain it’s Mitt.. He cares for the middle class. He cares deeply for the middle class.

He just has no idea what the Hell – or who the Hell – we are!

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Rainey

carlson
NW Reading

From a report out today from the Washington Employment Security Department.

Washington’s construction industry led all sectors in employment gains in August, with a seasonally adjusted estimate of 1,900 jobs, contributing to a net gain of 3,900 construction jobs since August 2011.
These and other job estimates are detailed in the latest report from the state’s Employment Security Department. The preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August was 8.6 percent.

For the second year in a row, the employment estimates for the leisure-and-hospitality industry and the wholesale-trade industry showed unusually large losses for August. They contributed to an estimated net loss of 1,100 nonfarm jobs across the state.

“Based on the raw data, jobs in these sectors didn’t change significantly,” said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for the state’s Employment Security Department. “The reported losses show up when the seasonal adjustments are applied.”

Economists seasonally adjust monthly job numbers and the unemployment rate to remove or discount normal seasonal variations, such as holiday hiring. If an industry adds more jobs or doesn’t eliminate as many jobs as expected based on past history, it shows up as a seasonally adjusted gain. Similarly, when jobs are cut deeper than expected in a given month, or if normal hiring doesn’t occur, that shows up as a job loss.
“It can take up to two or three years to determine when deviations from the seasonal norms are temporary or longer term,” said Elling.

In addition to construction, the industries with the most seasonally adjusted job gains in August were manufacturing, up 1,500 jobs; financial activities, up 1,200; education and health services, up 500; and government, with an estimated net gain of 300.

On the loss side, wholesale trade dropped an estimated 2,600 jobs; leisure and hospitality lost 2,300; retail trade shed 1,600 jobs; and professional and business services lost 200.

Within the government sector, federal employment in Washington grew by 1,800 jobs, state agencies lost an estimated 900 jobs, public higher education declined by 100 jobs, K-12 schools added 500, and local government lost 1,400.

In August, an estimated 301,700 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 129,676 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

Also in August, 3,429 unemployed workers ran out of unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 108,669 since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.

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