Archive for October, 2012

Oct 17 2012

The fashion tipoff

Published by under Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Despite my near total ignorance of fashion, I’ve always liked the color hot pink. It’s not for everyone. But when it’s worn by the right person at the right time – it’s dynamite! I just never figured it would help me understand candidate behavior in a presidential debate.

I’ll leave the “what did it all mean” debate details to media heavyweights more intellectually attuned to such stuff. Besides, they get paid for the job. I’ll just stick to the hot pink.

Go back to the end of the debate on Tuesday night. After all the furor was over. If you looked up in the bleachers just above the section reserved for the questioners, Ann Romney was in the first row on the right – in hot pink. Michelle Obama was in the first row on the left – in hot pink. Damn poor planning that. Each almost an equal distance from the stage. Best seats in the house.

But – within half a minute of the moderator’s last words to the camera – Ann Romney was on the stage. The candidates had not had time to even turn to formally acknowledge each other with small talk. As is customary. Not that these two guys were going to do that. Fat chance. And it appeared to me Ann Romney made sure it wasn’t going to happen if she could help it.

She quickly climbed the few steps and placed herself on Mitt’s right side – smack between him and the President. About eight feet away. If Mitt had turned to acknowledge Obama, he would have had to go around – or through – Ann. If the President had turned to his left to speak to Romney, he would have had to go around – or through – Ann.

Within seconds, she consciously nudged Mitt to his left and the small group of his supporters standing there. No further acknowledgment between the debaters was going to occur if she could help it. Obama looked left, saw the situation and – about that time – Michelle reached his side. His left side. Shoulder to shoulder, about four feet from Ann – with no glance or other recognition between the two women.

The moment hit me like a brick. Two well-dressed women – in nearly identical hot pink – separating their husbands from each other and assisting both in avoiding what would have been tough and perfunctory – if not totally meaningless – small talk. Two lionesses protecting the family.

Within three or four minutes, the Romney’s and their entourage were gone. But the Obamas hung around for some 40 minutes, shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures with members of the audience. Suddenly, just one woman. Just one hot pink dress.

I immediately flashed back to the end of the earlier Biden-Ryan debate – after all the talking was done. Within a couple of minutes – and after the obligatory handshake with smiles yet – wives, kids and grandkids circled both men. Then, in a minute or two, both families mashed together into one hugging, smiling and chatty crowd. Adult Ryans were kissing each other – and adult Bidens. Adult Bidens were kissing each other – and adult Ryans. Kids in both families talking and running around the stage. It was just one of those very, very good moments in our national politics you don’t often experience. A good end to a good experience.

But the Romney and Obama slugfest? Well, if you wanted to determine the winner, all you had to do was watch the hot pink. Really made the whole winner-loser decision easy for me. Wonder what the coordinated color is for next week in Florida.

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Oct 16 2012

Avoiding World War III

Published by under Peterson

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

Today we’re adding a new column by Martin Peterson, co-author of the Idaho 100: The People Who Most Influenced the Gem State. He has decades of experience (more than could even be summarized here) in Idaho politics, government and social history. Welcome!

Fifty years ago, in October 1962, I was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, attending a communications school. Ft. Sill was home to the U.S. Army’s Artillery and Missile School. I was the ranking enlisted person in our class and, as such, was in charge of my platoon. On the afternoon of October 22 I was instructed to have my platoon gather in our unit’s dayroom that evening to watch a televised speech by President Kennedy. The purpose of the speech was to inform the nation that the Soviet Union had installed intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States.

We were then notified that the entire U.S. military had been placed on a DEFCON 3 alert. DEFCON stands for defense readiness condition and the highest level of alert is DEFCON 1. By way of example, after the September 11, 2001attacks, the military was placed on a DEFCON 3 alert.

The next morning, we moved out into the field to participate in maneuvers with other Ft. Sill units. We ended up encamped near an Honest John missile unit. The Honest John was the country’s first U.S. nuclear surface-to-surface missile. That morning, the Strategic Air Command was placed on a DEFCON 2 alert, the only time our country has ever faced that level of alert.

Usually you will hear a lot of rumors floating around a military unit at a time like this. But not this time. Everyone seemed to know that this was a matter between President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev. And there was also a general awareness that the U.S. and Russia were remarkably close to going to war. Not a comfortable feeling sitting in a tent in Oklahoma in the midst of the Army’s primary missile training facility.

Following around-the-clock intense negotiations, on October 28, after a pledge by President Kennedy that the U.S. would not invade Cuba if the missiles were withdrawn, Khrushchev announced that they were pulling their missiles from Cuba. On October 29, all returned to normal at Ft. Sill.

Fast forward to February 13, 2007. I am at one of my favorite locations in the world. Sitting on the outdoor plaza of the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba, with a glass of Havana Club rum and a Montecristo No. 2 cigar, looking out over Havana Bay with a Cuban musical combo playing background music. I had done this before on previous trips to Cuba and it is always a highlight of the trip. It is also a long ways away, both geographically and time wise, from sitting in a tent at Ft. Sill Oklahoma. But maybe not so far away as it would seem.

The grounds of the Hotel Nacional slope down to a spectacular view of Havana Bay and the Malecon, the highway that runs along the bay. If you had been standing there on February 15, 1898, you would have had a grandstand seat to watch the sinking of the battleship Maine.

On previous visits I had noticed a door leading underground and some rock lined trenches on the hotel’s grounds. I assumed it had something to do with the infrastructure that supports the hotel and its grounds.

This time I found myself talking to an elderly Cuban man who spoke pretty good English. I asked him about the doorway and the trenches. He asked if I would like a tour. As we walked toward the door, he told me that he had served in the Cuban Army in 1962 and, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, known as the October Crisis in Cuba, he was assigned to a surface-to-air missile unit. During the crisis they had dug the trenches on the hotel grounds and placed a missile installation in them to protect Havana from any U.S. air attack.

Opening the door revealed a stairway connecting to the trenches. We went down the stairway and he took me on a tour of the entire missile complex, which had been abandoned many years earlier. It turned out to be a complete underground military complex, even if it was somewhat primitive by even 1962 standards. It was an incredible step back into the past for me. Now I was experiencing first-hand what the Cubans had experienced while I was on DEFCON 3 alert at Ft. Sill. The similarities were remarkable. The Cubans had been just as convinced that the U.S. was preparing to attack them as we had been convinced of the potential of a Soviet missile attack from their Cuban installations and they were prepared to defend their country at all costs.

Fortunately, not only for the U.S., Cuba and the Soviets, but for the entire world, calm heads and diplomacy finally prevailed and all sides came out ahead. But for seven days in October, 1962, both sides sat on the brink of what might well have become World War III. It is an anniversary that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Marty Peterson is an Idaho native. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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Oct 15 2012

A couple things you’re not being told

Published by under Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

With all the political garbage talk going on these days about tax cuts, we voters – the people who pay those taxes – are being promised impossible things while hard facts are being ignored. The kindest, most gentle way of putting it is we are being led to tax slaughter while being lied to. Even if your favorite politician sounds so reasonable and factual, there are things he’s not telling you. So, I’ll take up two of the major omissions right here. Believe me, the list doesn’t end with just these two.

When politicians talk about “rewriting the tax code” or “eliminating deductions” or “reworking tax rules” or “prioritizing tax breaks” you should be scared. Very, very scared. The last time a major tinkering of our federal tax laws was done, it was overseen by Oregon GOPer Sen. Bob Packwood. He of the “lady problems” who soon thereafter was told to go home by his peers.

Here’s the first landmine. During the 1980′s process, we middle-income taxpayers got screwed and the big guys made out just fine, thank you very much. No matter who wins this election – from president on down – you can bet the farm it’ll happen again. The reason is simple. When tax rewriting begins, you and I are way under-represented at the table. Almost ignored. But the big guys – the ones with the well-paid lobby folks ever-present on Capitol Hill – those guys have front row seats and unlimited expense accounts with which to peddle some well-compensated Gucci influence.

Since you and I won’t be attending, who’ll speak for us? Who’ll make the case that our precious homeowner exemption is more important than some international company not having to pay taxes on a corporate jet? Who’ll speak up for you when the cutting turns to second home exemptions for RVs against someone’s luxury tax exemption for a 60 foot yacht? And that child tax credit. Will that survive a “K” Street onslaught by the briefcasers when they want to eliminate it in favor of another tax goodie for the international jet set?

If you don’t think that kind of horse-trading campaign contributor pressure is not exerted to the maximum against individual citizen interest, you must think Little Big Horn was just “a failure to communicate.” The big guys have an army – a well-paid army – to speak for them. Since you won’t be there, who’ll speak for you?

Then, there’s omitted tax cut fact number two. Let’s suppose – just for giggles – we all get the 20% federal income tax reductions being promised to we middle-classers. Whoopee! Yowser!!! Way to go!!! We’re off to the BMW dealer, check in hand.

Better wait up there, “ultimate driving machine breath.” You haven’t heard from your friends in the state capitol who set budgets and write the laws regarding levies and collecting taxes. You haven’t heard from your friendly county commission that shares the same legal responsibility.

If your state legislators and your county commissioners find themselves not receiving those absolutely necessary federal dollars – the ones you don’t pay anymore – what do you think the next step is? Can you say “tax increase?” Maybe “BIG tax increase?” Because your legislature and your county commission have responsibilities required by law to provide certain public services. It’s not a matter of “IF they’ve got the money.” No. It’s a matter of they HAVE to and they have absolute authority to reach into your pocket to do so. And, believe me, they will. I don’t care what you’re being told between now and election day. In many ways, they have no choice.

Oh, and don’t forget those other taxing folks in your neighborhood. The sewer districts, road districts, school districts, water districts, mosquito abatement districts, etc.. The ones getting fewer federal dollars, too.

Take the county, state and federal taxes you and I pay right now. Put them all in a big purple bag. Every dollar in the bag has been paid because each governmental level has lawful responsibilities or budgeted demands it must cover. So, let’s say, the feds put in 20% less – that 20% tax credit you’re being promised. Well, what has to be paid for by law still has to be paid for. By law. Who’s going to make up that missing 20%? You know. The 20% you didn’t pay? Continue Reading »

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Oct 14 2012

An Idaho gender history

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

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The most frequent specific reaction to the book Martin Peterson and I just released, Idaho 100: The people who most influenced the Gem State, is this: Only five women out of 100 people? Really?

The same thought occurred to us as we populated the list. Were we, for some reason, just missing a lot of women who really ought to be on the list? We concluded we weren’t, at least not by the criteria we had set for the book. The reasons say something about the actual past and actual present of Idaho.

We weren’t saying women collectively didn’t influence the course of Idaho. Idaho became civilized as the female population increased; in politics, women were the main backers of prohibition, education and temperance, among other things. Many of the men on our list were strongly influenced by women, one way or another, and many women had a lot of specific, individual effect.

But individual leaders among women, especially early in Idaho’s history, are harder to find.

This is the history. Men led the original expeditions into what’s now Idaho. They scouted the trails, started the trading camps, found the precious metals, built the mining camps and boom towns and mapped their locations. In the early agricultural developments, women were more likely to be present, but men (like Charles Rich, Thomas Ricks, William Budge and William McConnell) were the leaders and founders of the early farm communities. Men designated the early roadways, specified boundaries on maps, designed and built the early water and transport systems on which the core of Idaho’s settled civilization was built. Men founded the major businesses – mining, timber, agricultural, communications and transportation – that formed the economic basis of Idaho in its early decades and beyond. The people who did these things account for many of the spots on the 100.

Idaho today has many prominent women in its business community, but that was not always the case, and in the context of two centuries of history, it’s a recent development. You’ll search in vain for the women who founded or controlled major Idaho businesses in the 19th century, or even the early 20th. (This isn’t necessarily true elsewhere, but it was in Idaho.) The first major female entrepreneur in Idaho with major reach and influence was Georgia Davidson, the key founder of Idaho’s television (and to a degree radio) industry, and she is on our list, but her greatest influence didn’t begin until 1940s and 50s.

It’s more stark on the government side. Idaho never has had a female governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general or U.S, senator, and just two representatives in all these years to the U.S. House. Idaho territory elected no women at all (so far as I can tell) to any territory-wide or legislative office. The Idaho state legislature was all-male well into the 20th century; the first female Idaho state senator took office in 1937, and the numbers did not rise substantially for more decades. Idaho did start electing women as superintendent of public instruction in 1898 (with Permeal French, listed in the 100), but decades passed before they reached any other statewide office.

When more recently women have argued that they long have been underrepresented in the state’s support political, economic and social ranks, they have been right – and that has changed, to some degree at least, in recent decades. But what has preceded this last generation or two is much of Idaho’s formative history. We didn’t argue that’s the way it should have been, or should be in the future. But we’d be dishonest to argue it’s not the way it actually was.

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Oct 11 2012

Completing an inventory – of remains

Published by under Reading

carlson
NW Reading

From the Federal Register, October 11.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has completed an inventory of human remains, in consultation with the appropriate Indian tribes, and has determined that there is a cultural affiliation between the human remains and a present-day Indian tribe. Representatives of any Indian tribe that believes itself to be culturally affiliated with the human remains may contact the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Repatriation of the human remains to the Indian tribe stated below may occur if no additional claimants come forward.

Representatives of any Indian tribe that believes it has a cultural affiliation with the human remains should contact the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission at the address below by November 13.

The human remains were removed from three different locations in Pacific County.

A detailed assessment of the human remains was made by Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission professional staff in consultation with representatives of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe of the Shoalwater Bay Reservation, Washington, and the Chinook Nation, Washington (a non-Federally recognized Indian group). The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, Washington, were contacted by mail and telephone but declined formal consultation unless neither of the aforementioned groups made a claim.

Sometime prior to 1958, human remains representing, at minimum, one individual were removed from an unknown site located in the town of Ilwaco, in Pacific County, WA. The human remains consist of a mandible and mandibular dentition. Dr. W. Iles discovered the remains and donated them to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, at Fort Columbia State Park. No known individuals were identified. No associated funerary objects are present. Continue Reading »

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Oct 11 2012

Nine female voices reaching millions

Published by under Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

To our national and individual shame, the nation’s protracted presidential campaign has been short on dealing with many major concerns. Billionaires have been getting more than their deserved share of attention. So, too, have lying politicians and elected crackpots spewing ignorance and hate. Even one of the signature stars of “Sesame Street” has embarrassingly become a major talking point. But what of this nation’s moral core? What of our shared responsibilities one to the other? What about the commitment that flows to each of us via our birthright of citizenship? The commitment to care for “the least of these?”

I’m a confirmed protestant whose had several personal and somewhat difficult encounters with Catholicism. It would be accurate to say my relationship with most things Vatican-sponsored is a strained one. But I have recently been introduced to an aged face of the Catholic Church that is refreshing and exciting. Her name is Sister Simone Campbell. The wise and very intelligent leader of “Nuns on the Bus.”

In April, the Vatican’s doctrinal office made both a strategic – and doctrinal – mistake. A big one. Rather than speak its criticism through normal church channels, it went vary public and loudly charged nuns – especially American nuns – have been outspoken on issues of social justice, but silent on other matters the Church considers crucial: abortion and gay marriage.

The nuns, led by Sister Campbell, had an immediate and equally public response: “Nuns on the Bus.” They hit half a dozen states with a full contingent of international media in tow. They stopped at soup kitchens, service centers for protestant as well as Catholic churches, toured low rent housing, visited homeless shelters, stopped on skid rows and did interviews about what they were doing and seeing. Lots and lots of interviews. It was “in-your-face” time for the Vatican. And for many American bishops who were actively stirring up opposition to what they believe have been President Obama’s efforts to “violate religious freedoms.” The ladies with the wheels one-upped them. And they still are. Continue Reading »

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Oct 10 2012

The Republican and the Independent

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There’s an interesting political experiment underway in Idaho’s new, sprawling 7th Legislative District that encompasses all of Idaho, Clearwater, and Shoshone counties and a slice of southeastern Bonner county.

The “incumbent” in the state senate race is Sheryl Nuxoll, an accountant and farmer/rancher who hails from Cottonwood. As the Republican she has to be considered the favorite even though some consider her to be a single issue candidate. She has long been active in Idaho’s “Life” movement.

Given how conservative Idaho County is, and how Catholic the Cottonwood/Greencreek area is her strong stance is a decided, perhaps even decisive, plus.

Her opposition is a popular and talented three term Shoshone County commissioner, Jon Cantamessa, who runs a family grocery business in Wallace. What makes this race a political experiment is Cantamessa is running as an Independent. According to Idaho’s chief election officer, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, an independent has never been elected to the Idaho Legislature.

When the personable 60-year-old Idaho native first ran for the county commission he did run as an Independent. In his case, then, there is a precedent for such a move. In his two subsequent races though he ran as a “business Democrat” and deliberately identified himself with Benewah County’s long-serving conservative Democrat commissioner, Jack Buell, who is also a good friend.

Cantamessa recognizes that there is a significant challenge to running as an Independent inasmuch as it invites suspicions from partisans of both parties and ensures there is no party organization of any kind to provide support. Nonetheless, he candidly concedes that in trying to introduce himself to folks in Clearwater, Idaho and Bonner counties who have never heard of him, if there were a “D” behind his name, many voters would go no further.

Cantamessa is clearly what former four-term Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus would call a “lunch-bucket” Democrat, one who knows the importance of having an economy that creates jobs and keeps growing. He also knows resource conversion, turning minerals into metals for use in computers, trees into lumber for houses, and wheat into flour for bread is what brings new dollars into an economy.

Thus his candidacy is built around economic issues in contradistinction to Nuxoll who he correctly characterizes as being more involved with the social issue of abortion than the economic challenges facing the constituency.

He knows though that in today’s Idaho too many voters associate the word “Democrat” with liberalism and environmentalism.
Explaining why he is neither would constantly have him off message in regards to why he seeks the senate seat. Continue Reading »

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Oct 10 2012

Jefferson Smith’s limits

Published by under Oregon

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The Oregonian, somewhat piling on itself, asked in an article this morning whether Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith has reached a point at which he no longer can win the job of mayor.

It came to no definitive conclusions, noting that while the negatives – articles about frequent driving problems and now about punching a woman some years back – have been accumulating, it’s also true that Portland voters often are a forgiving bunch.

The sense here is that forgiveness has its limits, too, and they may well have been breached at this point. Fresh polling could change the picture, but the norm is that voters become wary when they see too steady a dripping of unexpected bad news about a candidate they don’t know so well. This is the time, many voters reasonably assume, that a candidate should look at their best: Still fresh, with shiny new ideas and no harsh collisions yet with the realities of governing.

Smith doesn’t look that way now, and what’s really hurt has been controversies over not complex policies but basic subjects most people encounter and deal with on a regular basis: Driving around while street legal, and staying out of fist fights. The narrative that seems to be developing about Smith is that he’s an interesting person, maybe even a brilliant person, but that he has trouble managing the ordinary and everyday. The idea of sending someone like that into the mayor’s office is likely to seem a little disquieting.

Former Council member Charlie Hales has to have the edge at this point.

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Oct 09 2012

An Idaho 100 review: The Andrus place

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Idaho is one of the few states in the nation where a
significant number of people can sing the state’s song. This
is due in part to people like veteran political journalist Randy
Stapilus and his co-author, Marty Peterson, the long-time
director of the University of Idaho’s governmental affairs.
Together they have produced an entertaining book listing
the 100 most influential people in the 150 years since Idaho
became a territory.

The list is fascinating both because of the diversity of
characters, the famous (J.R. Simplot #11, Frank Church #14,
Joe Albertson #19, Ezra Taft Benson #27, William E. Borah
#69)as well as a few infamous (“Big Bill” Haywood #52,
Richard Butler #88), and the well-known (Robert Smylie
#18, Jim McClure #23, C. Ben Ross #47) as well as the truly
obscure(Wetxuwiis #10, Lafayette Cartee #25, Pinckney
Lugenbeel #34). It reinforces an old notion that it is people
who make and shape history, not external forces or tipping-
point trends. The book should be required reading as a
supplement to any Idaho history textbook.

Their main criteria for placing people on the top 100 list was
a requirement that in some way those listed were to have
had a transformative impact on the state. Many devotees of
Idaho history are going to quibble, and rightly so, about the
rankings. Indeed, the authors appear to have intentionally
selected for its shock value Lloyd Adams, a lobbyist, power
broker and fix-it type who served as the long-time chair of
the Idaho Republican party during the first half of the 20th century as the number one most influential figure.

Most of Idaho’s current political cognoscenti will ask, “Lloyd
who?” That he was a venal, ethically-challenged influence
peddler operating out of his law office in Rexburg and
thought nothing of providing favors to friends seems not to
have mattered to the authors.

Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal columnist and former
speech-writer for Ronald Reagan once wrote a book about
the Gipper entitled When Character was King.

Her point was character should still be taken into account
when judging those in the political ring. A secondary point
is that those who enter the ring, who subject themselves to
public scrutiny, place their name on the ballot and serve in
the fish bowl that is modern high public office should always
rank ahead of those who operate behind the scenes.

By any reasonable standard former four-term Idaho
Governor and one term Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus
should have been number one on the list both for his
transformative impact as well as truly beneficial impact on
Idaho. From obtaining funding for Idaho kindergartens,
to obtaining local land-use planning laws, to senior citizen
property tax relief, to creation of the Hells Canyon and
Sawtooth National Recreation areas, to expansion of the
Birds of Prey Natural Area as well as support for Idaho
wilderness areas while Jimmy Carter’s Interior secretary,
Andrus will stand the test of time as the most influential
person to ever trod the state’s landscape. The authors should
have counted the numerous references throughout the
book to Andrus, who they rated as the 16th most influential
(and the first governor on their list) and it would have been
obvious to them who should have been designated number
one.

In general, their recitation of the history of this array of
fascinating people is also pretty accurate though there is an
occasional lapse such as overlooking the fact that one of
Idaho’s truly transformative governors, C.A. “Doc” Robins
(#26)in fact did try for the U.S. Senate in the last year (1950)
of his incredibly productive term rather than quietly retire.
These are minor nits, however, that don’t begin to take away
anything from the fine achievement this book is.

The reason this reviewer gives the book 4 and 1/2 stars,
however, relates exclusively to the failure to give Andrus his
due. As his press secretary for almost nine years I concede
bias.

Bias aside, Stapilus and Peterson have performed a wonderful
service to the many Idahoans who take pride in the great state
and can sing the words to the state song—words which are
reinforced substantially by this book.

“And here we have Idaho/Winning her way to fame/Silver
and gold in the sunlight blaze/And romance lies in her
name. . .”

Read it, whether an Idahoan or not. You’ll be glad you did.

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Oct 08 2012

Corrosion or cancer: Damage either way

Published by under Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Something very strange is going to happen when the 2012 presidential election is over. Something I don’t think ever happened before in my long lifetime. The winner will be the guy who got the most votes from people who hated the other guy even more.

Bit of a twist in there, eh? Go back and read that last sentence again.

Put another way, more people who don’t like the guy they’re voting for dislike that other fella more.

Proof of this comes from more than a few national polls in recent weeks. The last Gallup sampling on this question of “likeability” among likely voters showed four in 10 pledging to vote for Mitt Romney even though they didn’t like him but didn’t like Barack Obama more. Pew Research got nearly the same result.

I’d been thinking about how negative voting – and outright hatred – could chose the next president, but sort of tucked the destructive thoughts away. But Sunday on “Meet The Press,” NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd erupted during comments from other guests. Unusual for a normally quiet guy like Todd. But the passion of his words was even more noticeable. And what he said brought those negative voting findings to mind.

Newt Gingrich was spewing forth another “I hate the President” outburst he’s famous for. And former GE CEO Jack Welch was again claiming a Democrat Party “fix” to lower national unemployment numbers to favor the current administration.

Todd apparently couldn’t stand it anymore.

“This is really making me crazy,” the normally unflappable, statistical guru of NBC News broke in. “The Federal Reserve gets questioned for politics these days. The Supreme Court. (Chief Justice) John Roberts. We have corroded.”

The conversation stopped and Todd spoke again.

“What we’re doing, we’re corroding trust in our government in a way, and one-time responsible people are doing so to control it. The idea that Donald Trump and Jack Welch – rich people with crazy conspiracies – can get traction on this is a bad trend.” Host David Gregory went to commercial.

Todd’s outburst – more emotional than intellectual – was spot on! By giving credence to haters, electing incompetents to office, exalting hate radio voices as spokesmen, circulating anonymous hate emails by the millions every day on the I-net and blindly accepting the crap spewed by ignorant political “celebrities” who fill our living rooms nightly, we’re creating great weaknesses in the very government we need to survive as a nation. It used to be if someone “famous” said something stupid, it wasn’t news. Now, far, far too often, it IS the news. Continue Reading »

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Oct 07 2012

The hot chatter over bull—-

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idahocolumnn

The hot chatter among political people in Boise last week was about bulls—.

It was the underlying and overt topic at a panel discussion before a statewide group of high school teachers, and it was a subject of high interest. And although the incident was minor, there’s an aspect to it that may keep it alive for some time to come.

Here’s the background. Earlier in the week, a Boise club held a debate forum on the three school-related referenda on the ballot in the general election, to decide if the 2011 school overhaul laws championed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna should stand or be thrown out. Luna was there arguing for the laws, and Democratic state Representative Brian Cronin, who is also working for an anti-laws group, were debating the subject.

The crowd was apparently civil and well-behaved, generally at least, but things got little intense between Luna and Cronin. After Cronin delivered his opening statement, Luna leaned over and whispered something to him. What it was is in dispute. Luna says he said something critical about Cronin’s talking points, but that it was G-rated. Cronin said the language was more, well, intense.

It might have ended there except that the moment was caught on audio, and even has been broadcast. The audio isn’t definitive. Reporter Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review wrote that it “is very difficult to make out, because Luna is practically whispering in Cronin’s ear while the audience is applauding loudly.” There have been attempts at noise reduction, and word circulated that another recorder also caught the exchange, but these aren’t definitive either.

None of this is very important as to the merits of the referenda. But there is some significance, because both Luna and Cronin are being mentioned as possible candidates for governor in 2014. Cronin is best known around the state as a critic of the “Luna laws,” and Luna himself is much more identified with the legislation than with most anything else. One meaning of this is that political futures could be affected by whether the laws survive the election or not, and another is that Luna’s and Cronin’s performance in this ballot issue battle cold set a stage for the future campaign.

That’s mattering a little more as time goes on, because the dispute is unresolved. If, say, Luna had acknowledged the remark Cronin alleges – whether it was real or not, or maybe some kind of half-mea culpa (“I may have been a little heated there,” or something similar) might have sufficed – he would have had the whole matter behind him; the subject is asked and answered. Representative Raul Labrador did that when his opponent criticized him for missing too many votes in Congress. He offered a partial explanation, but then said that, yes, he had missed more votes than he should have, and he would try to do better in future. That closed the subject (for now anyway).

It’s the nagging loose ends that give the story some legs. The comment Luna was said to have delivered wasn’t, after all, so terribly extreme even if true. But the did-he or didn’t-he aspect may not specifically go away, and it may feed into other narratives down the road.

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Oct 05 2012

Fires keep on coming

Published by under Reading

carlson
NW Reading

A statement from the Oregon Department of Forestry, on how the wildfires are continuing late into the season.

It’s fall but the wildfires keep coming. The 18-acre Buck Mountain Fire near Eugene in late September and a smaller, but high-potential blaze Tuesday evening up the canyon from Sweet Home serve as reminders of the continuing fire danger.

South Cascade District Forester Greg Wagenblast asks hunters and other recreationists not to let their guard down.

“The humidity is low and we’re having dry easterly winds,” he said. “These conditions, combined with the cured-out grasses and bone-dry forest fuels, have set the stage for fires.”

Firefighters were fortunate to stop the Sweet Home fire at small size during the evening when burning conditions had moderated. If it had burned on into the next day, he said, the outcome might have been different.

“Right now we’re hitting every fire start hard,” he said.

The dry conditions are just one reason for the aggressive initial attack. The other is reduced fire staffing. Most Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) field districts are currently at 50 to 60 percent of their peak firefighting force, since this late in the season seasonal employees have returned to school or their regular jobs.

To cope with this year’s unusually late wildfire activity, South Cascade and the neighboring Western Lane District have extended their firefighting helicopter contract into next week.

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Oct 04 2012

Two debate casualties

Published by under Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The basic rule of political punditry is you’ve got to be interesting, original and not sound – or read – like all the other pundits. But most of all, you’ve got to have your facts straight. Regardless of whether anyone has thought to write it down somewhere, the same rule applies to political debates.

The participants in the first presidential debate of our overlong political season seemed to have skipped right over that requirement.
First, the Obama side. His claim that Social Security is “fundamentally solvent” and “does not need fundamental changes.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says those are the facts today but will not be the case in 2030. Fundamental changes must be made. He knows that.

The President claimed his authorship of a “$4 trillion dollars deficit-reduction plan.” Actually it’s $3.8 trillion, counts letting the Bush tax cuts expire – not likely – and counts savings already agreed to a year ago. Bit slipshod in the math. He knows better. There were some other “stretches” to make points but nothing that most debaters don’t do when in full stride.

As for his performance, Obama needs to offer sincere apologies to all his supporters for showing up with less than his “A” game. He ignored obvious openings, walked right past distortions of fact, offered no challenges of his own and seemed sort of bored with it all. He had a bad attitude problem going in and coming out. And it showed.

The respected David Gergen nailed it for me. “Romney drove the debate,” he wrote. “I sensed the president had never been talked to like this over the last four years. I think he was so surprised that he thought Romney was just flat-out lying – that he never proposed a 20% tax cut. I think it sort of threw (Obama) off his game.”

As for Romney, this will be a longer list. But if my Republican friends will take off their GOP sweatshirts for a moment and look at Romney as only nondescript “Candidate A,” you’ve gotta go with me on this. Because “Candidate A” flat out lied. Many times.

Romney scored high in presentation, seeming interest in the debate, attacking openings and camera presence. Very high. Even some of his own staff said they had never seen him perform so well in public before. High “5′s” all around.

But – as a friend of mine has said – Romney became a human pretzel trying to make his various points. He stretched “maybe’s” into “sure things” and ignored fact when trying to make several points. While he certainly scored well for his side in appearance and presentation, he was near the bottom of the chart in substance and fact. He even flatly contradicted some of his own previous campaign rhetoric.

Here are some cases in point. Romney repeatedly claimed Obama has taken $716 billion out of Medicare and crippled the program. Fact: Obama has transferred $716 billion from insurance company payouts and hospital- approved provider payments to add solvency to Medicare. The dollars are still there. While saying he would not substantially change Medicare, Romney has repeatedly endorsed the Ryan plan which does – a plan he has repeatedly said he would sign into law. And he has endorsed the Simpson-Bowles Commission report which does the same.

Romney claimed he was not in favor of a $5-trillion tax cut – something he has supported on the campaign trail. He said he would not put any tax cut in place that would add to the deficit. But the non-partisan Tax Policy Center concludes Romney’s tax plan would cost $4.8 trillion over 10 years. The top one-percent would also get an average tax cut of more than $246,000 each under Romney’s plan. And he again refused to give specifics, saying he didn’t want criticism of his plan before he’s elected.

Romney said he would not cut education funding. While campaigning, he has said he would make such cuts or he’d pass whatever lesser federal dollar amount he approved to the states. But, again, the Ryan plan does cut education funding and Romney has endorsed that plan – even promising over and over he would make it law.

There are more items on the fact check list. Many more. In the next few days, you’ll be seeing and reading a lot of media and government kickback as the fact checkers do their business in depth. But here – in the first headlines – is a summary worth noting:

Chicago Sun-Times: “Romney wins on style – Obama wins on facts.”
CNN: “Mostly fiction.”
FactCheck.org: “Romney sometimes came off as a serial exaggerator.”
NPR: “Romney goes on offense – pays for it in first wave of fact checks.”
Huff Post: “Romney walked back many positions – denied own tax plan”
David Gergen: “Romney was just sort of flat-out lying.”

But the saddest fact about this first debate is this: far more people will have seen the movie than will ever read the book.

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Oct 04 2012

Another debate (Inslee/McKenna)

Published by under Washington

For a hot debate – hotter than last night’s presidential – check out the Yakima contest a couple of days ago between the candidate for Washington governor, Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee.

The heat seemed a little more on McKenna, behind (narrowly) in most of the recent polls. At the Slog, Goldy contended that “McKenna’s at a huge disadvantage in this debate, because now he has to hold a microphone, which means he can only gesticulate with ONE hand. That’s half the gesticulation. And half the points.”

The zinger actually did come out to play, on both sides, and the question of who won tips largely to who you support to start with. But there seemed to be nothing that put away either candidate.

It seems like a hot race, the hottest big one in the Northwest. No cooling yet.

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Oct 03 2012

False premise in the Luna Laws

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

At the core of the Otter/Luna reforms there is a false premise—-that state government bureaucrats can design a logical, defensible set of metrics to measure how good a teacher is.
Don’t believe it. There are only two ways to evaluate a teacher: 1) the evaluator has to spend hours in the class observing to see if learning is taking place; and, 2) ask the students—-they always can name the teachers who teach and they respect, and the one’s who babysit and they don’t respect.

The state department of education should quit trying to have it both ways. On the one hand they say local school boards call the shots, but on the other hand they provide “guidelines” to determine who is and isn’t a good teacher. In fairness to the department, they do allow on a local option basis input by students in the evaluation of teachers. And they do mandate in class observation – at least once during a school term.

They also mandate some sort of proof of parental involvement in the evaluation of teachers, but they leave it to the local school board to determine what form and whether a teacher’s evaluation is incomplete without the parental assessment.

What to do about parents who don’t care and won’t participate is apparently a problem left to the teacher and the board to solve, but an evaluation is not complete in the eyes of the state office without the parental involvement portion.

So, what do good bureaucrats do? With the participation of the teachers they create a form with lots of numerical goals and metrics. Examine one of the forms though and it is pure b.s. It is a statistic driven exercise regarding who can most creatively figure out how to game the system and turn the form into a positive evaluation.

It is another iteration of the phony STAR system created by the department to help one determine the better public schools in an area. So surprise, surprise, Benewah County turns out to have a five star elementary and a couple of four star schools as well.

I’m sorry folks, but with all due respect to the teachers and administrators who work hard under difficult circumstances there are no five star and four star schools in Benewah County.

I taught eighth and ninth grade at Kootenai Jr.-Sr. High School one year after college graduation, the academic year 1968-1969. Recently I attended the 40th reunion of that ninth grade class. Though sparsely attended every one of those students immediately recalled how I had made poetry come alive for them by initially playing some Simon and Garfunkel songs and some Beatle songs.

I had the lyrics written on the blackboard also and began showing them the standard rhetorical devices used by the song writers’ common also to the great writers of poetry. Suddenly poetry was much more interesting to them. By the time I asked them to produce their own poems every one of the eighth and ninth graders was able to produce some pretty fair stuff.

I knew I had touched every one of my students for the better. Unbeknownst to me the school superintendent was listening outside the classroom door (he never came into the class), and he decided that since I was a Columbia graduate and playing radical songs by the Beatles I must be a communist.

He wrote my draft board and asked that they rescind my teaching deferment and suggested I be drafted and sent to Vietnam. The draft board was only too happy to throw me into the draft pool.

I appealed to the school board at a meeting in which almost all the parents of my students showed up and asked that the superintendent be fired. The school board, impressed by the many testimonials from parents regarding my teaching, did fire the superintendent on the spot.

The system worked one might say but I chose to pursue my Master’s the next year rather than return because, grateful though I was for all the support, it was an early lesson in the petty politics that exist in all schools and it left a sour taste.

So what’s the answer? Here I part company with the teacher’s union which steadfastly insists on protecting the weakest link. There are good teachers, who don’t have to fear evaluation, and there are a few squares in round holes who shouldn’t be teaching and school boards have to be able to remove a bad teacher without facing the threat of lawsuits.

My answer is that teachers should be “at will” employees and leave it to the local school board to hire and fire without prescribing elaborate sets of criteria. If one mouths the mantra of local control, they ought to really walk the talk and quit promulgating all sorts of criteria.

My bottom line is repeal the phony top-down Otter/Luna Reforms and start over with the participation of all and come up with real reforms that restore real power to the local school boards.

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