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Posts published in January 2013

A dark Republican future

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

A number of my Republican friends – in their cups and glasses since the November drubbing at the hands Democrats and the right wing of their own party – are sobering up nicely and beginning to talk of better days ahead – in 2014. Given what’s been happening – and not happening – inside the GOP since those losses at the polls, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Things don’t look any better for 2014. Or 2016.

In fact, a fine op-ed piece from NPR the other day declared “Forget 2016. Soonest to look for improvements might be 2020!” Given the irrefutable evidence thus far, that might send my GOP friends back to their glasses.
Look at this from two angles. The first is what to expect our national ethnicity will look like by 2020. Director Paul Taylor of Pew Research says today’s white 63% majority will have shrunk to 60%. “Not a loose prediction, he says, “because it’s the statistical future we already know.” Further, according to Taylor, our voting patterns are highly aligned by race. Have been for many years and many elections.

Fact: the white voter pool is draining. Quickly. In 2012, white voters accounted for 220 fewer electoral college votes than just 14 years ago. President Obama took 80% of the non-white vote.

As Hispanics age and parent future generations, fortunes for Democrats look much brighter than the GOP. A 15-year-old Hispanic sophomore high school student today will be a 24-year-old adult in 2020, will have gone through our public school system and, by that time, have either college or work experience. Just look at “red state” Texas where, in two more national elections, Hispanics will be the majority population. Which party would be favored by heritage and education then? Those numbers clearly put Republicans everywhere on the wrong side of what’s coming. What we KNOW is coming.

Ironically, George Bush was on the right track to gain Hispanic support for Republicans in 2005 with prominent Hispanic appointments and outreach programs to reach Hispanic voters. But the Republican party operators – glad to see Bush go and to bury his memory – failed to follow up after he left office and Democrats have been actively making connections.

Now, look at the second angle: what today’s Republicans are doing to catch up. Basically – nothing. Oh, there’s that new bi-partisan immigration bill in the U.S. Senate. But, even if it gets to the floor for a vote – no sure thing – it likely will die there. Or, whatever’s left after House Teapublicans get through with it will be unrecognizable.

Then there are these facts. The National Republican Party this month re-elected a chairman who presided over 2012 losses from coast to coast and a reduction of seats in both Senate and House. Nearly all national GOP officers were re-elected as well. A day or two later, Speaker Boehner pledged ending abortion “is one of our most fundamental goals this year.” Several dozen anti-abortion bills are sitting in Boehner’s own House committees. More than 100 others are in Republican-dominated state legislature’s. Of interest to Hispanic and other immigrants? You bet! (more…)

Godwinned

Godwin's law says that "given enough time, in any online discussion — regardless of topic or scope — someone inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis." It's intended as a perjorative: Godwin (an attorney and author) himself said that in structuring the "law" as a mathematical proposition, "I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust."

Case in point today: Idaho state Senator Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, who disagrees with the proposed state health insurance exchange. Her point seems to be that the exchange would be an early step toward elimination of the health insurance companies (which, in truth, many people think might not be a bad idea). There is at least a real policy argument to be had here, but consider the way she put it in a post (expanded) on Twitter:

"Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange. Based on legislation and the general process that is written toward this legislation, the federal government will want nothing to do with private insurance companies. The feds will have a national system of health insurance and they will eliminate the insurance companies."

Yep: Creating a means, currently unavailable, for customers to be able to compare health insurance policies, is just exactly like torturing and killing millions of Jews in concentration camps.

Think a bit harder. - Randy Stapilus

Menzel’s world

Menzel TOM
MENZEL

 
Washington
My Home

Welcoming today a new writer here: Tom Menzel, a veteran editor and a close-eyed observer of the Puget Sound. From his bio: "Tom Menzel has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin and spent 14 years in the newspaper business, including a variety of editing positions at the Idaho Statesman in Boise. He founded Menzel-Higgins Communications in 1986 and has provided communications counsel for many government and private-sector clients, including high-profile public involvement projects and political campaigns. Tom has also been involved in community activities ranging from education and health care to community trails. He lives in the Puget Sound village of Hansville on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula."

Greetings from the great state of recreational weed, marriage for all and surprise majority coalitions!

It’s a high honor to be invited by my longtime friend and colleague, Randy Stapilus, to contribute occasional commentary, analysis and random observations about the ever-dynamic, Everblue state of Washington.

With Randy’s blessing, we’re calling my little corner of the virtual world “Washington, My Home,” which is the title of our awe-inspiring state song that begins with these words: “This is my country; God gave it to me; I will protect it, ever keep it free.” OK, maybe "Louie, Louie" would have been a better choice after all.

Keep in mind that I’m pretty much a regular guy, with a talented wife, a couple of above-average grown kids and one very cool 20-month-old granddaughter. No gigs with the nation’s formerly influential newspapers or magazines. Never won a Pulitzer. Sorry, no books. But this just makes me try harder to dazzle you.

Briefly, this is who I am: I was born a cheesehead (what the hell’s up with the Packers lately? Sorry, I digress), stole my journalism degree from UW-Madtown and spent 14 years in the newspaper biz, mostly as a nasty editor at The Idaho Statesman in Boise long before it was renamed The Bronco Gazette. After declaring independence from the newspaper bubble in 1986, I quickly hooked up with a few political campaigns and played communications consultant for some high-profile public projects ranging from urban renewal to infrastructure funding.

I also did some community organizing (is that a dirty word?) and worked with many local leaders representing a wide spectrum of thought. It was very rewarding to actually do things in my community rather than simply report on what everyone else was doing. Just for fun, I also learned to flyfish, backpack and pilot a little Cessna without killing myself or anyone else. I’m proud to have survived my years in Idaho – just barely.

After 26 years of the good life in Boise’s North End liberal hideout, we moved everything we owned in 2003 to a place known – only to real smart people like me – as the Salish Sea. We couldn’t resist the siren call of the Northwest’s largest metropolitan conclave, Amazonia (formerly Seattle), known for its sky-high demographic rankings in categories like burnable dollars per condo, muzzled conservatives, worried Microsofties, pampered Googleites, hourly latte consumption, scarcity of children and religion, and mysterious, beer-swigging, basketball-addicted, billionaire San Francisco hedge-funders. (more…)

Cardinal sins

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

What are Roman Catholics to do these days? It certainly is not to “pray, pay and obey.” Every time one looks there is a news story about vulnerable children having been sexually abused by priests. These perversions are compounded by the pathetic efforts of cardinals and bishops to cover-up the crimes.

The latest manifestation is the release of extensive documents exposing and damning the role of former Los Angeles archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahoney.

As a former public affairs advisor (paid by a church benefactor) to Spokane’s previous bishop, William E. Skylstad, during the period he was vice-chair and then chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I became familiar with abuse issues as well as the growing chasm between liberals and conservatives within the conference that reflects society’s increasing polarization.

Unlike most bishops, Skylstad recognized the inadequacy of the church’s feeble, self-serving response, which 40 years ago was to send offending priests to a re-education monastery in New Mexico or have them undergo psychiatric counseling.

Skylstad acknowledged that as a young bishop in the Yakima (Washington) diocese, he moved one priest suspected of pedophilia to another parish, one closer to Seattle so the offending priest could more easily attend counseling. When the sessions did not work, he was removed from parish duties. Skylstad volunteered this information and expressed regrets in a heartfelt column he wrote for the diocesan newspaper years before other bishops assumed responsibility.

Skylstad’s openness increased his stature among colleagues as he led the charge for new protocols to protect the vulnerable including prompt reporting of any charge to the authorities. He was one of the first to go to each parish and publicly apologize for priestly misconduct. Ultimately, in order for the Spokane diocese to meet claims for compensation of past abuses, he led the diocese through a painful bankruptcy.

Until recently, I thought Cardinal Mahoney was, like Skylstad, a prelate who “got it,” who understood how badly the credibility of church authorities had been hit. He supported protocols put in place to protect the vulnerable going forward, grasped the importance of reporting allegations immediately and knew how deadly the inevitable exposure of cover-up and conspiracy could be.

I was terribly mistaken. Some say dioceses where abuse occurred are the exception, not the rule. I disagree. (more…)

The Citadel, fleshed out

Remember that planned community - of sorts - that a group of survivalist gun enthusiasts have in mind to locate in rural Benewah County, Idaho?

More details are surfacing, including a sketch of the intended grounds.

Not that it stands a realistic chance of materializing, but it's ... quite a fantasy.

Austerity and Indian health

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

The Indian Health Service faces, what IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux calls, a “new reality” requiring a business model to match this era.

For example the 2012 budget was $4.3 billion. But when third party collections and the Special Diabetes Program is added to that base, the funding totals $5.38 billion. Third party collections, mainly Medicaid, Medicare and insurance, are important because that money is “generated and kept” at each service unit.

And, better yet, that’s one line on the budget can continue to grow. Even as Congress threatens sequester or other budget cuts.

“We also must work on customer service – if more of our patients have insurance or other health coverage, we do not want them to go to other providers,” Dr. Roubideaux wrote on her blog. “Even though IHS is a ‘service,’ it is also a healthcare system, and we need to think like a business. We are encouraging every one of our employees to contribute towards ensuring that we provide the best quality of care and to maximize the resources we have to provide that care. No one in the IHS system can afford to ignore the bottom line. If our goal is to provide the best care possible, we need to ensure that we can survive in the changing health care marketplace in which our facilities must thrive.”

One key element in that third party collections is Medicaid. Medicaid is a state-federal partnership, an insurance program for low-income families. However the Affordable Care Act expands access to Medicaid, an idea that’s supposed to make sure that more people can afford basic health insurance. But the rules of Medicaid, because it’s a partnership are up to state governments. Moreover not every state is choosing to participate.

A recent study from the Harvard Law School says: “There is strong empirical evidence that ‘opting out’ of expansion will have many negative implications by any measure, not only for individual and public health outcomes, but also for state fiscal stability. In other words, expanding Medicaid to residents with income up to 133% federal poverty level is in every state’s interest. While political battles loom large in the coming months, states will benefit from analyzing the actual costs and benefits of the Medicaid expansion and making an informed decision that best serves states’ residents at large.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives are a big part of that equation, a benefit for state governments as well as a source of revenue for the Indian health system. (The Indian health system includes the IHS as well as tribal, nonprofit and urban Indian programs). (more…)

Testing to the limits

bill BILL
OF THE
DAY
 

Periodic testing (which can include things like pop quizzes) with the idea of finding out if the students are learning is a sound idea. Revolving public education around a series of high-stakes tests is simply madness.

Pushback against that approach (which had the intent of providing "accountability" but instead perverts the system) seems to have been growing, and in Washington it's gotten visible - to the point that the revolt has generated legislation which has the support of the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The measure is House Bill 1450, proposed by Representatives Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, and Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, which "Declares an intent to: (1) Begin administering the college-ready and career-ready assessments that are being developed to measure the common core state standards in the
2014-2015 school year; (2) Combine the current reading and writing assessments into English language arts assessments; (3) Reduce the number of different assessments that will be required for students to graduate beginning with the class of 2015; and (4) Decentralize the scoring of the collections of evidence."

The five-into-three reduction is what will get attention out that (those other parts do have some interest too).

And what does the state's top elected education official think?

A news release just out from Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has this to say:

"I would like to thank Representative Sam Hunt for sponsoring HB 1450. I support testing. But I don’t support overtesting. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, 11th graders will have to take two additional tests, as well as pass five tests for graduation. The two tests will satisfy the “career and college ready” goals of the new Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. So beginning with the Class of 2016, students will be required to pass five tests and take two additional tests. Giving seven state-required tests during high school takes too much time away from real classroom learning. I urge the Legislature to pass House Bill 1450."

We seem to be moving on.

I owe you an apology

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

No question. I owe everyone who regularly follows these wandering thoughts an apology. And I offer such. Now. I apologize. I screwed up.
One of my frequent rants has been how I seriously believe far too many Americans go to the polls with little knowledge of the issues – of how government operates – of worthiness (or lack thereof) of candidates. Now, after a lifetime of media and civic participation, I’ve stumbled. Badly.

I’m a law and order kind of guy. Proud to say I’ve had some excellent experiences with outstanding people in law enforcement for decades with a number of friends in the business whom I deeply respect and admire. In our last local unopposed election for sheriff, I listened to the incumbent and cast what I thought was a knowledgeable vote. But it wasn’t. I didn’t know the real candidate and I didn’t know what he intended to do. Or not do. He didn’t come clean. I didn’t do my homework.

With a four-year renewal of his contract in hand, our local fella announced he’s not going to enforce all the laws. Oh, some he agrees with and you can expect he’ll do his duty on those. But there are others he won’t touch. A few days back, he even fired off a letter to Vice President Biden telling him the same thing. He went on quite a bit about what he’d decided was “constitutional” and what wasn’t. And he said he wouldn’t enforce laws he said were “unconstitutional.” No, Sir. If some gun laws come his way, he’s gonna pick and choose. He’ll decide what’s legitimate – “constitutional” he said – and act only on the ones he agrees with. Forget the others.

A week or two passed after his heated missive to Washington and I thought he might feel better now that he got it off his chest – that he’d simmer down and do his duty after all. But, no! Not our sheriff! He subsequently told the crew at our little almost-daily, almost-newspaper the other day he still meant it. No backing down there.

What’s really got his knickers knotted is if he’s told to “disarm” our county citizenry. If the feds tell him that. Of if the feds try to do that, he would “not tolerate” them doing so in his jurisdiction. To allow it, he said, “would mean violating (my) constitutional oath.” The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t tell him that. He decided on his own. Sorta from the hip.

Now, I’ve read the vice president’s recommendations. All of ‘em. Pretty reasonable stuff. I can’t find that part about “disarming” citizens – who would recommend it – under what conditions – who would authorize it -who would carry it out. Or that anyone would even think about it. The only voices I’ve heard even coming close to such conspiratorial crap have been on Faux “news” and we all know how they’re crazy as hell. Maybe that’s where our local sheriff got it. He might be a “Faux guy.”

He carefully pointed out “more than 4,000 people in Douglas County are “concealed carry” gun owners,” making it “one of the safest parts of the country.” Well, maybe. But figure 4,000 citizens in a county population of about 110,000 is less than four-percent. They’d all have to do a lot of shootin’ and killin’ to make it “one of the safest parts of the country.”
Suppose 40% or so in our county owned guns and were inclined to use them on other people. I doubt they would – but suppose. That means about 60% are unarmed with no intention of shooting anyone. So, in both cases, he’s concerned about a minority rather than the majority. Interesting that it was the majority of us who put him in his job – not the minority. And it was the protection of ALL of us he swore would be his job. (more…)

This week in the briefings

ships 
SINKING BOATS: The Department of Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard worked with Ballard Diving and Salvage to contain a small amount of oil released in Hylebos Waterway after two vessels moored at Mason Marine  near Tacoma. (photo/Department of Ecology)

 

The Washington and Idaho legislative sessions moved a little gingerly last week, as Washington legislators introduced (but in most cases have yet to much consider) a mass of bills, while Idaho's were focused more on administrative rules and education budgets.

Oregon's lawmakers convene next week, but they're already floating a bunch of ideas likely to stir things up in Salem.

Gun control in the details

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

It's not true, as many people (outside the state no less than in) probably suspect, that Idaho has no laws controlling guns – which is to say, gun control.

Idaho surely is one of the most easy-going states on gun regulation, as the state was reminded this week after news reports (though it isn't really news) that elected officials, including legislators, have an automatic right under state law to carry concealed weapons.

But check out online the Idaho Code Title 18 Chapter 33 (the main but not exclusive set of statutes on guns), which is titled “firearms, explosives and other deadly weapons,” for a starter. It covers a range of subjects that might surprise many Idahoans. First on the list: “Every person having upon him any deadly weapon with intent to assault another is guilty of a misdemeanor.” In words, with intent to use it for any purpose other than sporting or, presumably, clear self-defense.

There's the ban on selling guns to minors (without parental consent), on carrying a concealed weapon “when intoxicated or under the influence of an intoxicating drink or drug,” on carrying firearms onto school property (though the legislature may reconsider that this year).

Best be careful parading around with a gun in view, too: “Every person who, not in necessary self-defense, in the presence of two (2) or more persons, draws or exhibits any deadly weapon in a rude, angry and threatening manner, or who, in any manner, unlawfully uses the same, in any fight or quarrel, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” “Rude” and “angry,” after all, are seen in a beholder's eye.

The Idaho laws define “firearm” and “weapon” in various places, but they don't match up with the Second Amendment, which refers to “arms”: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (The premise before those words - “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” - having seemed largely to have escaped much discussion.)

What are “arms” taken to be? In Revolutionary days, they mostly meant muskets and cannon, but a quarter-millennium later “arms” means other things. We speak of nuclear arms, of chemical weapons, of drones and surface to air rockets, of IEDs, as well as Uzis and on down to the modest hunting rifle. (more…)