Writings and observations

From today’s e-mail by David Ammons, of the Washington secretary of state’s office:

FYI: Excellent column today by Danny Westneat, quoting Secretary Reed, on how release of initiative/referendum petitions has not resulted in intimidation, and about how civil the conversation and campaigns have been this year on some difficult ballot issues – gay marriage and marijuana legalization, most notably.

Sam, of course, has made civility and open government/transparency signature issues. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a challenge of the Secretary of State’s view that our voter-approved Public Records Act applies to initiative/referendum petitions. The case arose from release of petition signatures for Referendum 71, the “everything but marriage” expansion of domestic-partner benefits that passed in 2009. The court noted that the signers’ names have been on the Internet for months, without incident, and that challengers have not shown examples of intimidation or chilling the initiative process. The U.S. Supreme Court previously also has upheld the general constitutionality of public records release of petitions, in Doe v. Reed.

At the time of the 8-1 court victory, Reed urged citizens not to misuse the public documents by harassing or intimidating people who are using their constitutional right of citizen legislating. No one should pay a price for exercising those rights, he said at the time. He also continues to urges a civil tone when people discuss divisive or difficult issues – to “disagree agreeably.”

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

Emile Allais died two weeks ago. No individual who has lived in Idaho ever had a greater impact on his sport, although a close runner up would have to be Dick Fosbury, a long-time Ketchum contractor. Fosbury won the gold medal for the high jump in the 1968 Olympics. His revolutionary backward dive over the bar became known as the Fosbury Flop and is now used by virtually all of the world’s high jumpers.

There have been other athletes who have lived in Idaho at some time or another who have had major accomplishments in their chosen sports, but none with a major influence on their sports as great as Allais and Fosbury. Keep in mind that being great and having influence are two different
things.

Dan O’Brien, a University of Idaho track star, won the gold medal for the decathlon in the 1996 Olympics and was called, at the time, the world’s greatest athlete. But he has had no apparent lasting impact on the way decathletes compete in their sport.

Two other greats were Betty Ellis from Clarkston and Barbara Peturka from Orofino who, fifty years ago, dominated the world of women’s log burling with a series of world championships.

One of the greatest rodeo stars with Idaho connections was Jackson Sundown, a member of the Nez Perce tribe, who won the all-around cowboy title at the 1916 Pendleton Roundup when he was 53 years old. Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, wrote a novel based on Sundown’s 1916 Pendleton Roundup appearance titled The Last Go ‘Round. He died in 1923 and is buried at the Slickpoo Mission Cemetery near Jacques Spur.

Two other rodeo competitors who come to mind are Dean Oliver of Nampa and Bonnie McCarrol of Boise. Oliver won eight world championships in calf roping and three times was world champion all-around cowboy. McCarrol was one of the outstanding women rodeo riders back in the day when women were allowed to compete in bareback and saddle bronc riding and bulldogging. She died at the 1929 Pendleton Roundup when a horse fell on her and that was the end of women competing in bronc riding. Sadly, it could probably be said that McCarrol had the ultimate impact on her sport, since her death led to its being banned from rodeo competition.

Another great Idaho horse rider was Caldwell’s Gary Stevens. He started his career as a jockey at Boise’s Les Bois Park and went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes three times and the Preakness once. His mounts have collected over $221 million with 4,888 winners.

Walter Johnson pitched for the Weiser Kids during the 1906-07 seasons, where he was said to have pitched 84 consecutive scoreless innings in one stretch. He left Weiser and signed a contract with the Washington Nationals (later the Senators) and became one of the first five
players inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also named to the Major League Baseball All-Time Team.

And, of course, there was Harmon Killebrew of Payette. When he retired from major league baseball he was second only to Babe Ruth in American League home runs and is now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Picabo Street, Christin Cooper and Gretchen Frasier, all from the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, all were Olympic medalists and, at various times, the best in their fields. Which brings me back to Emile Allais. I say he had greater impact on a sport than anyone else who has lived in Idaho.

You say you’ve never heard of him. I’m not surprised. He was 100 years old when he died on October 17 and his major impact on his sport was well before most of those reading this column were even born.

Emile Allais taught skiing at Sun Valley in 1948 and 1949. In the 1937 world championships he had won gold medals in the downhill, slalom and combined. In 1937 and 1938, he was the world’s all-around champion skier. But those accomplishments themselves don’t qualify him for having a great impact on his sport. But how he won them does.

Skiers of that era generally used the stem turn on downhill runs. Allais thought there was a better way to make turns and he perfected the parallel ski turn, which he had learned from a friend, Anton Seelos. It was a revolutionary change in skiing technique and soon skiers from all over the world were copying Allais. Allais was only in Idaho a couple of years, but he made parallel skiing the standard for Sun Valley and the rest of the world.

Allais was an accomplished skier by the time he turned eight in 1920. When he was 90, Allais collided with a snowboarder and broke his shoulder. But he recovered and continued skiing into his late 90s. Upon hearing of his death another skiing legend, John-Claude Killy, proclaimed that the father of modern skiing had died. And, for a couple of years, the father of modern skiing was an Idahoan.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

One of every two people reading this – statistically – is anti-black and/or anti-Hispanic. In fact, slightly more than that. Statistically.
For some time, I’ve held the opinion racism has been a large – but unspoken – factor in our national politics. A very large gorilla in our universal living room. Some of you have challenged that. Some have even called me “too sensitive” or “just plain wrong” when responding to my concerns. When it comes to expressing opinions, that’s O.K. When it comes to fact, it’s not.

I have in hand the results of a new Associated Press national survey as exhibit “A.” It was conducted by Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. While the combined results might be questioned because of regional differences, that’s hard to do when so many widely separated institutions come up with some very comparable statistics. Very.

Here is the AP’s direct quote on its survey results. “Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008, whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racial attitudes or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about the topic directly.”

In sum, 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes compared with 48% in a 2008 survey using the same system. But, in the questions that let to an implicit showing of racial attitude, anti-black expression jumped from 49% to 56%.

As for Hispanics, those institutions did their baseline work in 2011. They found 52% of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. In just one year, the 2012 results jumped to 57% in the implicit test!
If those racial results are accurate – and it seems they are when compared to similar research – what are the direct implications for President Obama when people are asked about his performance in office? Is the increase in anti-black sentiment because people are displeased with his actual performance or is it easier to be critical when you factor in his race? Even if you do so implicitly – meaning you may not know you’re harboring those feelings but they showed up in questioning? Could he have been expected to succeed even under the best of times? Which these certainly are not!

The subject of how Obama’s race would factor into how he’d be treated as president surfaced in my thinking during the 2008 campaign and was renewed after his election. I don’t mean to say I was looking for instances of different treatment – only that it was a part of my thinking about a president that had not been there before. Why should it?

The first time I made a connection was when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted out “You lie” during a speech by Obama to a joint session of Congress. No historian can remember any such outburst and the breaching of what remains of congressional decorum. Wilson, it should be remembered, was one of only six members of the South Carolina Legislature who voted to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over his state capitol. A flag that symbolizes the nation’s years of slavery to America’s black population. His legislative voting record on this and other issues is certainly open to scrutiny in matters of race.

Then, when the crazies of the Tea Party hit the streets in Washington, it was impossible not to connect the President’s race with the message. Depictions of him as a black Hitler, racist signs about Kenya and birth certificates, open carry of guns that hadn’t happened in such numbers under any Caucasian president. Protests in that city were not new. The depictions were.

The “birther” nuts. Even today, polls show more than half of Republicans – more than half – believe the president was not born in America. Anyone ever challenge John McCain (born in Panama) or John Sununu (born in Cuba of a Palestinian father and a mother from El Salvador)? No. But this president? You bet. Even Mitt Romney played to the idiots in a Detroit campaign speech by noting he was born in Detroit and no one ever asked for his birth certificate. Unfounded as the “birther” non-issue is, denying it’s racial is not possible.

Challenges to Obama’s college background. Anyone in your memory ever make an issue of where Bill Clinton went to law school? Or where Gerald Ford or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter or Herbert Hoover got their higher education? Anyone ever ask for – yea, demand – their college transcripts?
Anyone in your memory try to link a sitting president with the political or social views of his deceased parents? Anyone? Anyone ever call a president a “creature of affirmative action programs?” Anyone?

To deny anti-black sentiments in the country with the extremely harsh – and often completely unjustified – treatment of this president doesn’t wash any more. And I’m not even going near the flatulent Limbaugh or the professional haters like Beck, Savage and the dozens of others.

When the greatly admired Colin Powell, known to be a Republican, made his full-throated endorsement of President Obama for the second time a few days back, that “great Republican American” John Sununu claimed it was because the two men were of the same race. In multiple interviews. A Romney surrogate and his national co-chairman. Campaign denial? None.
Within the last week, someone whom I deeply admire nailed it in the national media. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson was Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the Pentagon and at the State Department. A man respected in the military and by many in foreign service nearly as much as his longtime boss.

“I’m a lifelong Republican,” Wilkerson said. “And my Republican Party (today) is full of racists.”

You can’t say it any clearer.

This national racial division did not come about overnight. It never does. No one – not one – is born with a hatred of those who are a different color than ourselves. Oscar Hammerstein wrote so many years ago “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” In the case of our current feelings about race, it seems there’s been an awful lot of hatred being taught our young.

Had Obama started his presidency under normal economic, social and military conditions, he’d likely not be viewed so harshly at the end of his first term in office. But that wasn’t the case. It’s been an uphill slog on nearly every front a president can face. How well he’s done is for each of us to decide.

That AP poll suggests race will be a significant factor in our voting when it should not be. But will we make our decisions based on his performance and strength of character? Or on the basis of skin color? The numbers are not encouraging.

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Rainey

Washington’s first House district is much the most interesting, seemingly much the closest, congressional race in the Northwest this year – the only one that really has had the feel of a jumpball race. Is it still?

The new first district is really unlike any that preceded it, an inland district generally in northwest Washington between Seattle and Canada. It includes some King and Snohomish county turf toward its southern end that tilts Democratic, but lots of other territory north of that with a Republican history. It’s commonly called a close-split district, and seems here to have maybe a thin Republican edge.

The race there is heated. The Democratic primary, won by self-financing Suzan DelBene (who has experience running in the 8th congressional district), was closely contested between a bunch of candidates. The Republican field was relatively cleared by John Koster, a Snohomish County commissioner well-known in the area, who came within an inch or so two years ago of defeating 2nd District Democrat Rick Larsen, and ran very strongly in the substantial parts of the new district that overlap with the old 2nd. Our initial take was that this race was close, but Koster seemed to have a slight edge.

That may be gone now. DelBene has been heavily outspending him, though that may be a lesser factor. She has been leading (though not by a lot) in the few polls that have surfaced.

And now, days before the ballot deadline, there’s Koster’s entry into the Republican rape talk hall of fame.

One of Koster’s problematic areas, in a district largely economically conservative but more socially liberal, has been his social conservatism, especially on abortion and related subjects.

Last weekend, he was on tape saying this: “On the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s the consequence of this crime, how does that make it better? You know what I mean?”

Asked about incest and rape, he described incest as “so rare” – the suggestion being that it’s so uncommon as to hardly merit cognizance.

What that may be widely taken to mean is Koster’s association with the Akin-Mourdoch discussion about rape and abortion, a stance that has crippled those once-strong candidacies and has turned them both from frontrunners to underdogs. If Koster’s statement goes viral around the 1st in the next few days, DelBene may not just win, but win easily, in a district that otherwise would have been a tough, close call for days after next Tuesday.

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