Writings and observations

An unfortunate commentary on the news diets of the reading public – even what remains of the newspaper-reading public …

A piece in the Slog recounts the 10 most-read (online) articles for the year in the Seattle Times:

“That’s six stories about death [murder celebrity, blizzard], two about the weather, one about sports, and one about Microsoft’s new logo. Those were the top ten stories in our state’s paper of record. During a presidential election year.”

Not a happy commentary.

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Preview from the next Washington Weekly Digest:

A new proposed rule from the Washington Liquor Control Board highlights some of the ongoing aftermath of the conversion of the state liquor sales system from public to private hands.

Rule 12-24-089 said that “The passage of Initiative 1183 and the privatization of spirits theft and product loss is significant and increasing. This is contributing to increased underage access to alcohol. Rules are needed to clarify reporting requirements of product loss due to theft and internal shrinkage.”

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

“They also serve…”

The full quote from the 17th century English poet, John Milton (1608-1674; author of Paradise Lost), is “They also serve who only stand and wait.” It’s from another of his writings, On His Blindness, made poignant by the poet’s own blindness.

It’s a reminder that most are supporting cast on the stage of life to a few star players whose light outshines others and who are more noted by historians. That said, their roles, seemingly insignificant, are necessary to fill out the drama. Every star needs a supporting cast to help them stand out in life’s movable parade.

These thoughts were prompted recently following a discussion with two of the four most noteworthy stars from the Idaho State Senate freshman class of 1961. This is the class whose stars and role players, with seasoning and maturity, four years later led Idaho into modernity by debating, then adopting and sending to the voters for ratification the first ever sales tax designed to better fund public education and meet the stated first goal of Idaho’s state constitution.

Fifty years later two of the “stars” who played critical roles in the sales tax debate and passage are still alive with sharp memories: former four-term Governor Cecil D. Andrus, who in 1961 was elected to the Senate as a Democrat from Clearwater County, and former Majority Leader Bill Roden, a Republican from Ada County.

Curious about the other lesser known members of their class and what each might recall of these supporting players, I called both recently.

Coincidentally, both Andrus and Roden started by recalling the same anecdote. It seems the Statesman’s then political editor, John Corlett, ran profiles during the session on new members from both the House and Senate. Corlett wrote up a glowing profile of Roden in 1961 in which he said Bill, at 29, was the youngest person ever elected to the Idaho Senate.

Andrus, almost a year younger than Roden, not only took exception, according to Roden, he demanded and obtained a retraction and a correction from the Statesman. Andrus didn’t deny it. The anecdote is more a reflection of how competitive in all things politicians are than it is a vanity item.

Both obviously hold the other in high regard. Andrus, chuckling, said Roden was really a Democrat at heart and that his father had been a long-time Democrat. Roden, who considers himself a moderate Republican in the mold of three-term Republican Governor Robert E. Smylie, laughed heartily when told Andrus considered him a Democrat and the first of the so-called RHINO’s!

Two conservative members of that class, both opposed to adopting a sales tax and still went on to higher office, were State Senator Jim McClure (Payette County), and Bonner County State Senator Don Samuelson. McClure carved out a long career as a congressman and a U.S. Senator, while Samuelson served one term as governor, defeating Andrus in 1966 and then losing a rematch in 1970.

In today’s political environment it is stunning to realize it was progressive Republicans like Pocatello’s Perry Swisher who fought hard and took the lead for adopting a sales tax dedicated to properly funding public education in the mid-60’s, but its true. Roden cites another member of that class, Watt Prather from Boundary County as being the real thinker for the “Rat Pack,” a nickname given to Roden and his supporters.

Co-chair with McClure of the “Economy Bloc” (senators of both parties who opposed the sales tax) was Bill Dee (Idaho County). Dee would always make a motion to cut every budget regardless of need by 5 percent, Andrus recalled. Likewise both Andrus and Roden recalled Senator Joe Ausich (Custer County) who boasted he never voted for any appropriation bill.

Andrus also recalled Cy Chase (Benewah County) who supported Dee for Minority Leader in 1963 over Cece, who lost by one vote. Always a good vote-counter one could tell Andrus was saying that Cy had double-crossed him. Later Chase became minority leader, a position from which every day he and Roden would engage in verbal combat over the issue of the day.

Andrus and Roden also fondly recalled Cecil Sandberg, a mortician (Bingham County). Solid and steady, he was especially good when the legislature had to redistrict itself. Andrus noted though that Sandberg was quick to get caskets exempted from any sales tax—just the beginning of a series of exemptions that over the years has gutted the sales tax’s ability to achieve its intended purpose.

Other members of that class: Ray Burge (Power County), Rollie Campbell (Valley County), Vince Nally (Gem County), Hal Wallington (Blaine County), and J.E. Yensen (Boise County). All played some role which while history may not have recorded it, still was a part in the play.

CHRIS CARLSON is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus. He lives at Medimont.

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Carlson Idaho

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

While trying to fight back my anger at the National Rifle Association’s contempt for civilization the other day, I got to thinking about the concept the demonic LaPierre was spewing. He didn’t use the actual words I was thinking of but there was no mistaking they formed the irrational concept he was spouting.

It’s called “Mutually Assured Destruction.” Or maybe you remember the utterly accurate acronym: “MAD.” The world lived with that MAD sword hanging over us for some 60 years. To some extent, we still do.

It began in the 1950′s when both we and the Soviets – at that time -had nuclear bombs. The idea was, if one of us decided to lob a nuke over the North Pole, the recipient would return the favor – plus a dozen, dozen additional. The concept was simple:” You kill me – I’ll kill you more.”

It was taken to the lunatic extreme of us having some 2,000 nukes in the 60′s and they had about the same. So it got to be: “I’ll kill you a thousand times but you’ll only have time to get off enough to kill me 438 times.” I’d always thought being killed once was sufficient but – since I wasn’t asked to help with national security issues – I just sorta lived with it.

In the 50′s and 60′s, I was in the Strategic Air Command – the outfit that would do all the long-range killing for this country. Adding to the MAD irony for me was the motto of SAC emblazoned on the nose of every bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile: “Peace is Our Profession.” Looking back, you gotta admit that was kinda sick.

Stanley Kubrick skewered the concept in his movie “Dr. Strangelove – or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb.” A far right SAC general – played by Sterling Hayden – got doped up on right wing paranoia and launched his planes in an attempt to flatten the Soviets before they could respond. One scene I’ll never forget is the U.S. Army storming his airbase as hundreds of machine gun bullets shredded that “Peace is Our Profession” sign at the main gate.

I’d like to say Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush light and Obama ended MAD. They didn’t. Despite occasional talk about “disarmament,” the Russians still have more than a thousand warheads and we have about the same. So, yes, MAD is still with us.

But now – now the National Rifle Association is proposing we introduce a new version of MAD into our local school systems. It’s so simple the rest of us should have thought of it, too. Put an armed person – police or principal or teacher or parent volunteer – just one person “carrying” – and it will send an immediate and stern warning to all who want to attack any second grade classroom. If that doesn’t work – if the attacker ignores his certain demise – when the shooting breaks out all the children will have to do to stay safe and out of the line of fire is “duck and cover” just like they do for earthquake drills. Damn!

The only thing making me more angry than the NRA’s stupidly arrogant self-interest is the chorus of voices being raised in support of such a mindless idea. Granted, it’s still a small chorus. And since nut cases generally are the first to speak before thinking, maybe we’ve heard from most of ‘em. I pray that’s so.

The proposal we adopt a policy of “you-shoot-me, I’ll-shoot-you-more” for the public school system reeks of the internal decay of reality so often represented by the NRA. In a nation where law enforcement has daily brushes with people creating a “suicide-by-cop” scenario on our streets, it’s entirely irresponsible. You think some dysfunctional person is going to stop on the sidewalk and suddenly say “Boy, if I take this assault rifle and these 300 bullets into that school they’re gonna hurt me. I better go home now?” You think a Connecticut National Guard tank would have changed the shooter’s mind in Newtown?

If no responsible element of the NRA – IF there still IS a “responsible element” within the NRA – doesn’t disavow the association’s current absurd stance articulated by LaPierre, solving indiscriminate mass murder incidents will be harder. But we have to do it. With or without the NRA.
As a nation, we are nothing more than parents, grandparents, great grandparents, brother, sisters and – well – you get the idea. While we are different – one from the other – we also share the need to care for each other. And each other’s children. We must end this.

As for LaPierre, sometimes someone like him comes along with no obvious parentage. In that case, we have a name for him, too.

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