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Posts published in February 2013

A messenger with nothing honorable to say

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in South Brooklyn…if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark or you might not get home at all…nobody knows if or when the fiscal collapse will come, but if the country is broke, there likely won’t be enough money to pay for police protection…hurricanes, tornadoes, riots, terrorist gangs, lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face – not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival…responsible behavior … and it’s time we encourage law abiding citizens to do just that.”

That is a portion of the latest alarmist, racist and baseless rant from the NRA’s LaPierre. Filled with lies and race baiting, the nation’s ranking gun nut made these fact-free charges – and more – meant to inflame. To incite. Add these bloody words to the previous pile of verbal excrement from this false prophet.

Yet, nearly nobody in the United States Congress has stepped into the light of publicity to call this bastard what he is. Few condemned the groundless garbage for what it is. Oh, we heard of some who – off the record – said the NRA was going too far. We heard of some who – off the record – wished he would shut up and disappear. But only a handful put it on the record. And there were even some who said they agreed. But not “on camera.”

LaPierre is close to becoming a domestic terrorist in my view. His continued portrayal of a nation unable to enforce its own laws unless every citizen carries a gun is alarmism of high order. Rather than position himself and the NRA as defenders of law and order, he constantly invokes conditions of disorder and violence – of the need of every American to be armed. He warns one race of possible future violence to be committed by other races. He promotes visions of breakdowns in government and law enforcement – their coming inability to enforce our laws. He forecasts vigilantism to maintain personal protection. Rather than support the professionals who assure our safety under the law, LaPierre undermines their effectiveness by continually warning of their coming failure.

So, in this space – and in future spaces – we will posit the view that any member of Congress who does not publicly denounce LaPierre, his lies and racist garbage in the strongest of terms – on the record – will be considered to be his supporter. The lust for NRA PAC money and fear the NRA will end employment at the public trough can no longer be shelter for those we elect. None.

LaPierre has taken the issue of gun ownership to dangerous extremes. Extremes the NRA never claimed in its previously honorable existence. He’s become a villain obsessed with his own power. His conduct and his words are outside the bounds of reasonable discourse on issues of gun safety and citizen protection.

Member of Congress need to publically disown him. And the rest of us need to ignore him.

First take: Hemp, Reardon

news

LEGALIZING HEMP Stronger language than the norm - amidst introducing, yet again, a bill to legalize farming of industrial hemp - for Oregon Senator Ron Wyden: "there are some dumb regulations that are hurting economic growth and job creation ..." But fitting. This has nothing to do with the legalizing pot proposals, since hemp, though related on the plant family tree, had no mind-altering effect. But it is highly useful for many things, with the perverse result that although hemp is widely used in this country, and usage has actually tripled in the last decade, it's still illegal to produce it here - we have to import it - though it can grow well. No immediate prediction, however, that sanity will prevail this time.

TROUBLE FOR REARDON Snohomish County's executive, Aaron Reardon, has some serious trouble brewing now, whether he seems to register it or not. His staff (apparently office staff, not campaign staff, which would not have been a problem) made a series of public records requests under made-up names aimed at his political opposition. Reardon seems to be defending the key staffer involved, which says something for loyalty but could be serious trouble down the road.

The federal budget in Idaho

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

There is no greater issue facing this country than that of bringing the federal budget under control. It is a bigger issue than dealing with international terrorism, drugs, global warming and, yes, even second amendment issues.

The federal budget and the need to eliminate the deficit is something that impacts virtually every American. Changes in federal tax laws, reductions in federal discretionary spending, including defense spending, changes in Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement program, are just a few of the issues facing Congress, the President and the entire nation.

The only thing certain about dealing with these issues is that no single person is likely to be pleased with the final solutions. But it is also important that the public is knowledgeable of the
extent of the problem and the reasons for solving it. And, perhaps most importantly, why the solutions to the problem, however unpopular, will probably be far better for the country as a whole than simply ignoring it.

Much of the time during the past few months I have been working with the McClure Center for Public Policy Research at the University of Idaho putting together a project to help educate Idahoans on issues relating to the federal budget. The end result is a symposium that will be held in Boise the evening of February 19 and televised statewide on Idaho Public Television’s World Channel.

The symposium brings together some of the nation’s leading experts and participants in seeking solutions to issues such a deficit reduction.

Senator Mike Crapo is a member of three major committees involved with these issues. The Senate committees on Finance, Budget and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. He is also a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Reform, more commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho second congressional district is a member of both the House Appropriations Committee and the House Budget Committee. (more…)

Blue book, online

blue book

The every-other-year Oregon blue books have had wonderful covers for years, and the new one out today - just online at the moment, though in print in a few weeks - follows the tradition.

The covers are chosen by contest, and hundreds of people typically submit prospects. This one: "“Strawberry Hill Sunset” was taken in March 2011, by John Pedersen of Beaverton. John used his Canon 5DmkII camera and Canon 16-35mm lens to capture this image at sunset on the Oregon Coast, south of Yachats near Strawberry Hill."

Looking forward to checking out the inside as well ...

(Idaho has biennial blue books as well, traditionally with plain but dignified dark blue covers. Washington doesn't have such a publication.)

First take: Job points, women’s appointments

news

75 POINTS IN A WEEK Well, this is ambitious: Washington Governor Jay Inslee has a job promotion plan that involves 75 specific points, and "got a response from the Legislature that was more warm than cold." Considering that the deadline for moving bills out of committees is only one week away, that suggests either (a) Inslee hasn't (re)accustomed himself to state legislative timing rhythms or more likely (b) he's calculated that something like this will fare better if its pushed in a hurry - credible since its topic is increasing the number of jobs - as opposed to giving legislators lots of time to pick over and amend it. High risk, but it may be the only immediate option Inslee has to give it a try.

THE PROPER SLOT This could just about go to Stewart or Colbert as another example of Republicans irritating women (read: female voters). The story involves Joan Hurlock, appointed to the state Fish & Game Commission by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter but denied confirmation by the Idaho Senate. There was some back and forth about whether the rejection had to do with her gender (only one women previously had ever been appointed to that panel). That argument may be strengthened by what Hurlock recalled Senate Resources and Environment Committee Chairman Monte Pearce saying to her: ’We’re going to look like bunch of men beating up on a young woman. He said if I withdrew “’I am sure the governor could appoint you to another commission, maybe the nursing board.”’ Idaho Legislature, your next national close-up is ready ...

That health care reference

During President Barack Obama's state of the union speech last night, he spoke (near its beginning) about health care, and included some references to changes that might cut costs. There was this significant line, for example: "We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital; they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive."

This, and a couple of other bits, were actually a specific reference - though Obama didn't explicitly say so - to Oregon, whose Governor John Kitzhaber was sitting in the first lady's guest area. Oregon's health care experiment, centered on the use of regional community care organizations, probably is the most advanced such effort in the country, aimed at reducing costs while keeping medical care as good or better.

It isn't a something-for-nothing, free lunch proposition; rather, it's better organization of resources.

It got some good national promotion in a recent article in the Washington Post, which probably deserves some additional reading by policy makers around the country.

Third senator

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

In his wonderfully entertaining memoir, Joe Miller tells an incredible story about Bethine Church, the widow of Idaho’s four-term Democratic U.S. Senator Frank Church.

Miller was for 40 years a top lobbyist in Washington, D.C., but early in his career he was paid a then princely sum of $25,000 a year by the United Steelworkers of America to organize and run campaigns for the U.S. Senate. In his first outing, 1956, one of his winning “horses” was a young, political neophyte, Boise attorney Frank Church.

What Miller did not know but came to know, was the Senate and Idaho were getting two for the price of one. Had Miller known that he might not have crossed Bethine the first time he met her.

In his book Miller tells about flying to Boise shortly after Church had won a narrow victory in the August 6th primary over former U.S. Senator Glen Taylor, the singing cowboy. He recounts meeting in U.S. District Judge Chase Clark’s home. Judge Clark was Bethine’s father, Frank’s father-in-law, a former governor of Idaho and as Miller puts it “a shrewd old hand in Idaho politics.”

Also present was the Democratic national committeeman, Harry Wall, a movie theater owner from Lewiston; the state party chairman, George Greenfield; attorney Carl Burke, Church’s boyhood chum who managed all of the campaigns; and, Bethine. (more…)

First take: Insurance exchange, guns

news

IDAHO INSURANCE EXCHANGE BREAKTHROUGH? It has the feel of a fig leaf, but it could generate the Idaho House votes that the health insurance exchange proposal backed by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter wouldn't get and might need. It is a "trailer bill" (meant to be an addendum) to the exchange bill working its way through the Senate, backed by a coalition of Republican freshman led by Representative Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. It seems to include some additional oversight, including legislative participation on the panel governing the exchange. It doesn't sound as it it will change much, but it may provide enough rationale to draw more votes on the closely-split issue. (This also has the potential to turn Malek into a pivotal figure in the House.)

GUNS, GUNS, GUNS The Washington House Judiciary Committee is considering - and preparing to act on - a bunch of gun-related measures, including background check and safety measures, and some aimed at juveniles. One coming up today: "House Bill 1096 aims to punish juveniles for carrying guns before they have the chance to use them in a serious crime, said Democratic Rep. Christopher Hurst of Enumclaw, who is sponsoring the bill. Right now, juveniles can carry guns and receive no jail time the first four times they are caught ..."

Read more here: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/politics/#storylink=cpy

A North Star toward growth

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

Let’s jump right to the big questions: Did President Barack Obama’s State of the Union do anything to resolve the deep differences in philosophy and policy on Capitol Hill? Was there any common ground? Did he lay the groundwork to find enough votes to stop the sequester, or better, to find a real budget solution?

I don’t think so. What’s more: I don’t think there is agreement on the nature of the problem, let alone any of the solutions.

As far as speeches go, it was a good one. The president pitched his case for where the country should go in terms of both philosophy and policy. My favorite line was this one: “A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”

This line should be inspirational: “A growing economy ... must be the North Star that guides our efforts.” Yet it represents the deep divisions in U.S. politics because a growing economy cannot occur in an era of austerity.

A great example of this divide surfaced when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gave the Republican response. “Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012,” Rubio said. “But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.”

But if you dig into the numbers, there is no evidence for that kind of statement. Economists for the Bipartisan Policy Center say the sequester will cost over a million jobs in 2013 and 2104. The total economy will likely drop from north of 4 percent GDP -- the number Rubio used -- to under 2 percent.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says it will be worse. He says a sequester will send the country into a new recession.

But even the nature of the sequester is a dividing line. The president put it this way: “In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea.”

But for Rubio and many of his Republican colleagues the sequester is only about one thing, the military, calling them the “president’s devastating cuts to our military.” (more…)

First take: Police, bridge, hunting

news

POLICE DISCIPLINE Seattle and Portland both have an issue, apparently, with making discipline of police officers stick. In Seattle, the police chief is complaining that the city attorney isn't moving on complaints against an officer. In Portland, a second case of an attempt by the chief to discipline an officer ran into the brick wall of an arbitrator. (The second of those, the Oregonian said, involved "an officer who smoked marijuana off-duty, gave one of his prescription pills to a fellow officer and then drove drunk while under investigation.") The system as is seems to allow little possibility for discipline of those officers who should experience (a situation that doubtless aggravates too most of the better-behaving officers). The day will come when stronger measures will emerge from the public, if this keeps up.

BRIDGE TOLLING Counterpart stories too on bridge tolling. In Seattle, a citizen movement based on Mercer Island against tolling on I-90 (it would hit many residents there directly); they now have a website up. And opposition seems to be growing rather than fading on the Columbia River Crossing I-5 bridge at Portland-Vancouver. Suggestion: Sunset the tolls when the bridge renovation is paid for.

HURLOCK DEFEAT A Dan Popkey blog post on the Senate floor defeat 19-16 of Joan Hurlock notes something of a rural-urban divide in the vote. (Hurlock was gigged as insufficiently enthusiastic as hunting, which may or may not be true, and may or may not be the reason for the defeat for appointer Governor Otter.) The post notes a gutsy acknowledgement from Senator Patti Anne Lodge of Nampa: "She’s given up hunting, and likes to see deer, quail, pheasants, ducks and geese roaming her land on Sunnyslope near the Snake River. She added a reminder for what she called the “great white hunters”: many citizens see critters as more than just meat." She is correct, and that number, in increasingly suburban Idaho, is growing.

Little and the economy

brad little
Dave Smith, a certified public accountant, right, converses with Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little following a City Club of Idaho Falls luncheon. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Idaho Lieutenant Governor Brad Little says the crushing federal debt that has burgeoned from $4 trillion in 2000 to $16 trillion in 2013 and existing future obligations most concern him when considering challenges for Idaho’s economy and how the Legislature will tackle them.

“Today we’ve got new challenges. As always, you’ve got the international economy and what kind of curves that’s going to throw America and Idaho,” Little said, commending the downward trend in Idaho’s unemployment rate. “But we’ve still got … way too high an unemployment rate, but even more critical an underemployment rate.”

Unfunded future liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare have gone from $20 trillion to $80 trillion as the U.S. population ages, Little said. Average retirees have paid $110,000 into Medicare, but will take out $350,000 at a rate of 10,000 retirees a day, he noted.

“So, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that that’s unsustainable,” he recently told the City Club of Idaho Falls. “Unfortunately, the president and Congress … have kicked the proverbial can down the road. ... The problem with that can is it’s getting a lot bigger and a lot harder to kick in the fact that they haven’t addressed it.”

Little said Idaho’s congressional delegation has been in the forefront of addressing the deficit crisis, but the task is not easy. If Congress tomorrow were to eliminate every federal employee, it would not cut the annual operating deficit by half. “That’s the magnitude of just the cash deficit that’s out there. So, there are going to be hard decisions that are going to need to be made on the federal level.”

That’s important to Idaho because 30 percent to 40 percent of the money appropriated by the Legislature comes from the federal government. A large percentage of the money used by Idaho cities, counties and highway districts also comes from the same source.

“So, when Congress inevitably does the right thing, we know there’s going to be consequences.”

With the exception of oil-rich states like North Dakota, Montana and Oklahoma, Idaho has led the nation in recovering from the last recession, the lieutenant governor said.

It did so by prudently setting aside rainy day funds, not raising taxes, cutting spending by 20 percent and adhering to a structurally balanced budget, which essentially means one-time money is not spent on ongoing programs, Little said.

“I can tell you even though 40-some states require balanced budgets, there’s very few of them with the exception of those energy states that are in the same position we are.”

What’s even more critical is budget issues cannot be resolved in Idaho or the nation if the economy does not grow. “So that’s a delicate balance that has to take place on both the national level and the state level.”

Retaining existing businesses, recruiting new ones and diversifying the economy are crucial for resilience, he said. “The status quo as far as business is not going to be adequate for us to grow to where we’ve got that shock absorber when those waves of whatever it’s going to be come to us from the federal government. We don’t know and frankly they don’t know, but I think all learned souls back there will tell you it’s inevitable.” (more…)

A tragedy to avoid repeating

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Got an email from a friend the other day – a friend who tries my patience on a regular basis with right wing B.S. from the Internet. He doesn’t originate it. He just “passes it on” like millions of other folk. Most of the time, I hit “delete” and go on about my business.

But this one got through. And I can still feel anger clear to the bottom of my old feet.

This latest spurious screed was meant to instantly alarm all who received it that “Obama appoints two devout Muslims to Homeland Security posts.” One of the reactions this specious piece of crap was supposed to stir up was “My God, we’ve got Muslims in key government places.” The other – as so many of them have been the last several years – was to perpetuate “I-hate-Obama-no-matter-what-he-does-because-he’s-not-really-our-president-and-just-look-at-what-he’s-done-now!”

Funny, those are not the reactions such garbage creates in me. Or, most others I know. No, we feel revulsion. Disappointment. Shame. Anger. Emotions you feel when someone of otherwise obvious intelligence does something really stupid and really hateful without thinking.

The gist of this phony alarmist missive was that two men of Muslim heritage and faith had been appointed to key jobs in the Department of Homeland Security. Kareem Shora – born in Damascus, Syria, and Exec. Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – is now a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. The other fella, Arif Alikhan, son of Pakistani immigrants and a seven year federal prosecutor in California – then Los Angeles Deputy Mayor of Homeland Security since 2006 – is now Asst. Secretary for Policy Development for Janet Napolitano.

At this point, I could take several paragraphs to describe educational and professional accomplishments of both men. Suffice to say, they’re two excellent examples of citizenship, educational and personal achievement who’ve made outstanding contributions to the old U.S. of A. in many ways.

The email from my friend charged – among other things - “Devout Muslims being appointed to critical Homeland Security positions? Was it not men of the “Devout Muslim Faith” that flew planes into U.S. buildings not too long ago? What the heck is this president thinking?”

Well, for openers, I’d guess the president was “thinking” nothing about these appointments made by a cabinet secretary with the power to do so. I honestly doubt the thousands of appointments made by cabinet secretaries cross his desk. And, if he did “think” about it, he probably told the Homeland Security Secretary “good job.”

No, the real purpose of this email was to inflame. It was meant to criticize a president – of mixed race – that the originator of this crap hates and can’t accept as a twice duly-elected head of this country. It was meant to ridicule, anger and divide. It’s been passed on millions of times. By people of little to no real intelligence. (more…)