Writings and observations

Idaho’s House speaker for the last three terms, Lawerence Denney – derided in many editorials around the state as “Boss Denney” – is out as the top House leader. He lost to the assistant majority leader, Scott Bedke. (Ironically, Denney has been AML before he won the top spot.)

This was mainly a contest over personality and management style more than stands on legislation; Denney and Bedke haven’t had discernably different voting records. Still, management style can matter: Legislation may surface, or get to the floor, depending on that style. An early take from one observer: The session may run a little longer now than it would have if Denney had prevailed.

No other changes of major note in the leadership races. More in this weekend’s column. – Randy Stapilus

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Idaho

carlson
NW Reading

From a note to editors by the Washington State Patrol, concerning new state law on marijuana going into effect tomorrow …

However, it is unlikely that we will have much to report tomorrow regarding immediate effects of the new marijuana law. In particular, there will be no way to tell how many people troopers might have contacted with less than an ounce of marijuana and who were NOT arrested. It’s fundamental that we don’t keep tabs on people engaged in legal conduct.

It will take a month to six weeks to have completed trooper time sheets that might indicate a change in the number of arrests for possession. However, trooper timesheets only indicate “drug arrests,” they do not indicate the type of drug involved. So even this might not be definitive.

With respect to impaired driving, we hope you’ve all heard our mantra by now: We’ve always arrested impaired drivers regardless of the drug involved. It has always been a crime to drive while impaired by drugs whether they be illegal, legal or even medically prescribed. This new law does not change how troopers will determine impairment at the side of the road.

The THC level in a suspect’s blood will not be known for days or weeks after the roadside contact. That will be an issue for prosecutors and defense attorneys not troopers.

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Reading Washington

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

A magician’s best weapon to fool you is “misdirection – a word, a gesture or a movement to make you think or look at something different from what the guy’s actually doing. When the really good ones master the concept, you’ll be fooled every time. Works well in politics, too.
All our national media is awash in “fiscal cliff” hysteria. Will we go over? Will we be saved at the last minute? How bad will it be? Who’ll be to blame? All this “cliff” business is drowning out just about everything else. To me, all that noise is misdirection. You gotta keep your eye on what they’re doing – not what they’re saying.

Both sides are dug in. Really entrenched if you believe the talking heads. “Absolutely no way they’ll get together on anything before the end of the year” all the “experts” say. Maybe. Maybe not. A little piece of news out of the U.S. House this week may have more to do with that “misdirection” analogy than the media thinks.

Speaker Boehner jettisoned four of his soggy tea baggies off two important committees. Huelskamp of Kansas and Amash of Michigan are no longer on House Budget. You remember that group? Paul Ryan chairs that one. He of “Ryan Budget” fame. Medicare vouchers and all that. The other two – Schweikert of Arizona and Jones of North Carolina – no longer have keys to the House Financial Services Committee men’s room.
All four were abruptly dropped – apparently told by the media before being officially informed – for what House leadership said was “failure to be team players.” And what had these miscreants done? Well, three voted against the Ryan budget in committee or on the House floor. And Jones openly challenged leadership by opposing the war in Afghanistan. Defiance of orders to “get in line and go along.” Plus – he’s a budget “hawk.”

While such punishments are not normally worth noting outside the inside pecking order, these four get my attention. They share a common connection – three contaminated by tea baggerism and a fourth spouting anti-war sentiments. All are bedrock hard opposing new taxes. Of course, they’re not the only ones in the House. But – when pushed to a vote in the “official” House budget process – these four have been among the loudest naysayers. They want more and much deeper cuts in the national debt and no – absolutely NO – tax increases of any kind. Not likely they’re going to change. For any reason. These are not the kind of guys you want in positions of authority behind your back if you’re Boehner and trying to compromise with the rest of your caucus and the White House.

That’s why I label this interior shuffling “misdirection” and give it some importance. Boehner’s team is going to lose some votes on the House floor no matter what the final meeting-of-the-minds compromise turns out to be. He knows that. He also knows if he can’t get enough votes from hardliners in his financial committees to get any compromise out for a full vote, all Republicans are going to get pounded in the 2014 election because the public already perceives them as obstructionists. Polling in recent days has run as high as 58% against them if there’s no deal.

Boehner – who’s been a real underachiever in the Speaker’s job – wants desperately to compromise. But, to do that, he has to do some House “cleaning” or any agreement he signs onto will die before it’s born.
At the same time, in the Senate, eight members from both parties have been secretly trying to build a budget deal. Idaho’s Mike Crapo is one of ‘em. Using the Simpson-Bowles report as a starting point, this little group has been cutting, shifting and whittling numbers for a couple of months. And – with rumored “unofficial” input from the White House. Scuttlebutt is they’ve made significant progress. Enough so their discussions have turned to how to get whatever their final plan is through the House. If this group of “four+four” is successful, odds are good their compromise will be approved by the full Senate. But, what about the House? What if all their work winds up dead in some House committee because the extreme minority of goofy tea baggerists can keep it bottled up?

Despite public chest pounding and ultimatums, I think Boehner’s trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. He’s got to be aware of details that Senate group is talking about. He has to. And you can bet there’ll be some “revenue enhancements” – read “tax increases” – because nothing works without ‘em. It’s his job to make sure whatever lands on his desk gets a true “up-or-down” vote. He’s got to count each nose in his caucus to find the necessary “yes” votes. About 218 total – give or take a nose.

But take all this guessing one step further. The budget deal is just the first step. There will be many more very important issues/votes in the early days of the new Congress. If Boehner can isolate some – not all but some – of the baggers, the House may be open for business. And if Harry Reid can get those filibuster rules changed, a simple majority will remove the logjam in the Senate. You accomplish both those things and a congress – now rated lower than used car salesmen by the public – may be able to do business.

Is all of this conjecture? Maybe. Maybe not. But Boehner, Reid and all the others in leadership positions didn’t get there because they showed everybody at the poker table all the cards in their hands. A little bluster. A little bluff. And, often, a good helping of misdirection. Watch for yourself.

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Rainey

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, The Round House, in early November was chosen by the National Book Award as the year’s best work of fiction. It is a worthy recipient, but in telling a compelling story of a Native American woman’s violent rape (Told by her 13-year-old son), the art of fiction transcends boundaries and presents an all too believable “true” story.

At one level it is a tale of injustice. At another it is one of vengeance as well as the coming to terms with tragedy full of ambiguities by two precocious 13 year old boys trying to make sense of their world while still full of teen-age angst driven by their own developing sex drive.

With skill and selective humor the author captures the complexities of reservation life and of Native Americans still trying to find their identity in a world that very much looks down on their culture and them. Now living in Minnesota, Ms. Erdrich grew up in North Dakota near the Chippewa Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain band. Her eye for the revealing detail is incredible while still employing a bare, fast moving writing style that quickly engages a reader.

In a powerful and emotional appeal Erdrich is making the case for a change in jurisdiction law in a more effective way than did Walter Echo-hawk in his scholarly book reviewed in this column earlier this year entitled In the Court of the Conquerors. Echo-hawk outlines the ten most outrageous cases upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court over the years that systematically denied America’s native peoples rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Each author, though, in their own thoughtful way makes the case for tribes to be allowed by Congress and the Courts to administer justice to native and non-native alike for crimes committed on their reservation. Non-native folks in counties containing or adjacent to Native American reservations immediately protest saying that since they can’t vote for tribal officials and judges they should not be placed under tribal jurisdiction. (Try using that argument if arrested in Turkey for drugs)

If the US Supreme Court starts recognizing tribes as having full sovereignty on their reservations (as opposed to the apparent interpretation that tribes only have “quasi-sovereignty”) then it is inevitable that the day will come when non-natives will be prosecuted in tribal courts for crimes like murder and rape.

In Erdrich’s novel it is just this issue of jurisdiction that lies at the heart of the story. The rapist is allowed to walk because neither the authorities nor the victim can say for sure where the rape physically took place. Sure, it was near the novel’s namesake “Round House,” but there are multiple ownerships in and around this particular site.

In the Afterword, Erdrich cites stunning statistics from an Amnesty International report which says one out of every three Native American women will be raped during their lifetime and 86% of their attackers will be non-Native men. For Erdrich this is as much an issue of safety for Native American women as it an issue of justice.

A minor yet central character in the story’s plot is a “fictional” South Dakota governor, Curtis W. Yeltow. In the book he fathers a daughter by a 17-year-old Native American intern working in his office and then pays her $40,000 to keep quiet and disappear. She disappears alright by way of murder.

Yeltow is a thinly disguised version of South Dakota’s longest serving (16 years) governor, Bill Janklow, who while serving as a young legal services attorney on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, at the age of 28 was accused by his 15-year-old Native baby-sitter, for whom he was the listed guardian, of rape. Since the alleged rape took place on the reservation, at that time Janklow could have been tried by a native court.

His case, however, was immediately removed by the local Bureau of Indian Affairs legal office from the tribal court and transferred to an off reservation court. No formal charges were ever brought, and three subsequent Senate investigations also concluded there was insufficient information to bring charges. Part of the problem has always been that the accuser, Jacinta Deer Eagle, while reporting the rape to her high school principal in 1967, did not go public until 1974 with her allegations.

Many Native Americans, as well as more than a few folks who knew Janklow, believe the charges to be true. One of those hail, hearty types, Janklow, who died of brain cancer this past January, had a penchant for acting like the law was for others. His habit of speeding, for which he was ticketed numerous times, finally caught up with him after he ran a stop sign at 65 mph and was struck by a motorcycle with the right of way crossing through.

The motorcyclist was killed instantly. Janklow was convicted of manslaughter and had to resign in 2004 after only one year in office his seat in the U.S. House.

Making the rape charge even more mysterious was the accuser’s death in 1975. Ms. Deer Eagle was struck and killed in a hit and run accident in Nebraska. Her “cause” (Holding Janklow accountable) was taken over by her step-mother, who, nine months later was murdered. The killer or killers has never been found.

Read Erdrich’s fine novel and you too will conclude truth is stranger than fiction.

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Carlson