Writings and observations

carlson CHRIS


Pope Benedict XVI should be commended for acknowledging he is not up to the demands of his job and is stepping down.

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter should take a lesson and follow suit.

The Idaho “ship of state” is adrift with no firm hand on the tiller. There is no real captain, just a figurehead as wooden as the figureheads on the old sailing ships.

The evidence is abundant and appalling. Just a few of many examples:

· The Governor’s fiscally irresponsible support of an unfunded property tax shift that benefits only several major corporations that don’t need it. Follow the numbers carefully. There’s $140 million in “relief” which will come at the expense of smaller counties, school districts and other taxing districts.

The governor says the state will cover $90 million but that has to be new money coming out of the existing general fund which means there is a “bow wave” effect going through future budgets. Bottom line is there will be even less general fund dollars available for an already woefully underfunded commitment to public education.

Furthermore, school districts and other taxing districts providing basic needed services will have to seek replacement funding at the local level through more over-ride levies. Many Idahoans will get hit by another tax increase thanks to a governor and Republican legislators who look you in the eye and flat lie by saying with a straight face they once again did not vote to increase your taxes. Pure hogwash.

· After taking the correct step following the rejection by the voters of all the proposed Luna Law reforms by forming a commission to take a year and come up with a set of consensus based recommendations for the 2014 Legislature to consider, he sits idly by while “we-know-best” legislators draft bills implementing parts of the rejected laws.

His failure to defend his process is appalling. Long ago he should have had the leader of the “we-know-better-what’s-good-for-education” crowd, Senator John Goedde of Coeur d’Alene , down to his office and shown him what his veto stamp looks like.

· Failure by his staff to vett properly the nomination of Joan Hurlock is so indicative of sloth that it borders on sheer incompetence. But it is his staff and he has now been at it for seven years. Bottom line is no one did even the minimum of background checking. Losing a gubernatorial nomination is a clear sign of indifference.

· All the signs point towards a Republican Legislature once again rejecting a Republican governor’s single major issue he is asking the legislators to give him. A few years back it was the gas tax to help fund needed infrastructure improvements to Idaho ’s roads, bridges and highway. This time it is the state overseeing the health insurance exchange rather than punting to the Feds. Once again his party’s legislative leadership is going to hand him his head on a silver platter because they know they can get away with it.

· Despite his pledge that there will be no amendments to the 1995 Nuclear Waste agreement negotiated with the Federal government by Governor Phil Batt, he continues to allow his Commerce Director, Jeff Sayer, who he appointed to head up the LINE commission, to go around saying there may be circumstances that will warrant changes but such changes will be in Idaho’s best interests. Poppycock.

· He continues to raise money to pay off a $250,000 campaign debt, now down to $131,000, but fails to mention he is raising funds to pay off loans to himself. Want to wager that once he has raised the last $131,000 he will decide he is not going to seek a third term?

Admit the obvious, Governor. Step aside and let Brad Little demonstrate what a truly engaged governor can do.

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Carlson Idaho

trahant MARK


This is not a headline that any political party wants to read: “House GOP Caves: Violence Against Women Act Impasse Finally Broken.” The shape of a new deal is simple, according to Talking Points Memo. “The Rules Committee instead sent the House GOP’s version of the Violence Against Women Act to the floor with a key caveat: if that legislation fails, then the Senate-passed version will get an up-or-down vote.”

In other words, the majority of the House, a combination of reasonable Republicans and Democrats will have the final say. Thus the Senate bill, including expanded jurisdiction for tribal governments, is much more likely to pass. As I have written before, the Violence Against Women Act makes sense in this era of austerity because it reflects an efficient tool for Domestic Violence prosecution. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the House still must vote for the Senate bill.

But the bigger picture is that conservatives are losing across the board right now.

Look at this week’s action list:

Conservative governors across the United States are buying into the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care act. Most recently Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Gov. Chris Christie signed their states up for the program.

In the Senate, conservatives could not hold their own members on a filibuster against Chuck Hagel. He’s now the Secretary of Defense.

And, yesterday, a congressional candidate in Illinois won her primary (essentially, the election in a district that is heavily Democratic) running against the National Rifle Association.

And two days before the sequester begins, there is growing evidence that the American public is siding with the president. A Washington Post-ABC news poll found that “67 percent of those tested disapproving of the way Republicans in Congress are handling federal spending.”

So how are Republicans responding? Will they fold on the sequester sooner or later?

The conservative blog Red State says “conservatives, not liberals” are now the problem. It calls for Republicans to oppose their own leadership more often and block bills by voting against their leader’s proposed rules. Erick Erickson writes: “So why do House conservatives support the rules on bad bills? Because leadership tells them to. And they fear that they will get punished for crossing leadership. But our allies need to be made aware that saving our country strongly outweighs preserving allegiance to leadership hacks. And we will be there to support them if they choose to fight.”

And, in the Senate, Erickson says, conservatives “need to filibuster everything in order to leverage the opportunity to amend bills and engage in extended debate.”

The very notion of obstruction as a governing philosophy shows a movement in retreat. If you don’t have the votes, or the facts, then try to use every congressional trick to block action. That may score a few votes, but it ultimately loses the argument. For the Democrats, it’s a recipe for winning the House of Representatives in 2014.

Perhaps after all of this back and forth about the budget and the sequester, the word is finally getting out that the fight has been about the wrong problem. The budget challenge of the United States is not this year’s budget, or even a spending problem. It’s a longterm demographic challenge that’s based on two simple trends: People live longer and there are more elderly than ever before in history. The solution should fit that problem, not an across-the-board attack on government.

Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the Senate yesterday that “deficit reduction be secured through well-designed, balanced policies that don’t impede the economic recovery, jeopardize future productivity growth, increase poverty and inequality, or sacrifice access to health care or health care quality.

The deep cuts proposed by conservatives undermine that long term challenge.

“Enacting a larger amount of deficit reduction now would be desirable if policymakers can secure it without doing harm in other areas — that is, if policymakers can achieve it through policies that: do not impede the economic recovery or jeopardize future productivity growth by providing inadequate resources for areas like education, infrastructure, and basic research; don’t increase poverty and inequality, which already are higher here than in many other Western nations, or raise the number of Americans who are uninsured; and don’t sacrifice health care quality or increase overall U.S. health care costs,” Greenstein.

In other words: Solve the real problem, not the imaginary one.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He lives in Fort Hall, Idaho, and is a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Join the discussion about austerity. A new Facebook page has been set up at:

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rainey BARRETT


I was raised in a Central Oregon, Republican culture when kids were taught certain rules about respectable behavior. I don’t mean just not saying bad things – although I did learn the taste of Ivory Soap at a young age. No, I mean saying or doing things that embarrassed the grownups. Say or do something that reflected badly on the family? Just not acceptable. And swiftly punished.

Whether at home or in school, deviation from rules of respectability often resulted in someone being exiled. Separated from the rest. The teacher wouldn’t call on you for the rest of the day or week. At home, immediate justice often meant sent to a lonely room – often the laundry room in my case. With the door shut. You “ceased to be” for awhile. Silence.

Sadly, rejection and punishment – and silence – are no longer the fates imposed for those who’ve become national embarrassments or politically and socially disgraced voices. How else can you explain the ever-present face of Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Dick Morris, Sanford, Robertson, Orley Taitz, Santorum, Bachmann, McCain, Paul (2), DeMint, LaPierre, Perkins, Dobson, Trump, Gohmert, et al? All have engaged in speech or conduct – or both – deserving rejection. Yet they are ever-present. Even sought out.

In a nation faced with deeply troubling national struggles for all of us, why do these discredited people remain in our living rooms, day after day, spewing the same specious nonsense into our atmosphere? When respectable leaders are so embroiled in terribly important work affecting our lives, why do these same voices of craziness and rejected thought still occupy so much of our national attention?

Gingrich is undoubtedly the most excellent example. Disgraced and forced to resign from the highest office in the U.S. House of Representatives and his Georgia seat in the body, he should have been expected to “go quietly into that good night.” A proven adulterer – at least twice – a consummate liar – repeatedly – a man who has failed every try at elective office since his well-deserved dismissal – a con artist who uses presidential campaigns to hawk his books and videos and to drive up his personal appearance fees. Why is this bastion of all things rejected and despicable in a public persona still being so prominently forced into our consciousness?
What is the national media’s fascination with this guy? He’s on the Sunday talk circuit nearly every weekend. He and his twisted – often warped – thinking are pursued by Blitzer, Cooper, Gregory, Stephanopoulos, Van Susteren, Crowley, Morgan and the rest. Why? He’s become a politically obscene “whack-a-mole” creature.

What you see in this Gingrich over-exposure is our national obsession with celebrity. From statesmen and visionaries with deserved recognition to demented serial killers – and everywhere in between – you’re assured of repeated national media exposure, millions of dollars for the book rights to your story and millions more for the movie or television series.

Think not? Check the speaking fees for ol’ Newt. Nearly double what they were two years ago. Prices up on all his videos and books, too. Way up.

How about disgraced former South Carolina Gov. Sanford? Admitted liar and repeated adulterer. Now he’s running for Congress. So you’ll see even more of him. Ah, love those “family values” types? Shame? Nah!

Has Lindsey Lohan with her immensely troubled life dropped off your kids radar? No? Has any Kardashian done ANYTHING meriting someone’s notice? Ever? Why do we keep getting extended exposure of Ted Nugent on Fox? Notice you’re still hearing the deep “thinking” of that Palin woman on all things national? And Gohmert who believes a teacher with a semi-automatic is the answer to school massacres? And Beck who’s making another media fortune spouting end-of-the-world apocalypse? Ever wonder where he would have spent all that new money if he was right and the rest of us were wrong?

Looking to their elders, our kids see us holding out the ignorant – the violent – the sociopath – as people to be admired and rewarded. Teens know who these people are. They’re exposed to them in school and in their media. Social or otherwise. Since these misfits are granted continual presences in our lives, they’re in the lives of the young, too. For what purpose?

In the extreme over-coverage of the Newtown massacre, several “talking heads” proudly said they would not use the killer’s name in their reporting. Say what? To what end? “Being responsible,” boasted Anderson Cooper. “Being an idiot,” sez I. We don’t know the shooter’s name? Our kids don’t know not only the name but everything they can find on Facebook and Twitter? You think celebrity has not already attached to the murderer’s name and face? Look for a made-for-TV movie in the next 12 months.

If Cooper and his media cohorts sincerely want to “be responsible,” here’s some advice. Dispatch Gingrich and others of his ilk to the garbage heap. Seek out wiser heads – with much wiser voices – to create the important conversations we badly need right now. Give us honest discussions and educated thought. Help us understand issues and the variety of responses to them.

And for Newt – a lifetime supply of Ivory Soap. On Elba.

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