Writings and observations


Medimont Reflections with shipping

Ridenbaugh Press has a number of books scheduled for release in the next few months, and today we’re pleased to lead off with a book of reflection and analysis by one of our regular columnists, Chris Carlson.

Chris’ Medimont Reflections, available now from this site (and soon locally around the Northwest), is a followup on his last book, a biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson’s take on Idaho politics over the years, the Northwest energy planning council, top environmental issues and much more.

The first review, from Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman, is out today. Popkey called it “a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho…. Carlson, who lives in the Kootenai County hamlet of Medimont, writes a newspaper column and has larded his 13 chapters with opinions. He says the council should be abolished because of its failure to revive salmon and steelhead; advocates breaching four dams on the lower Snake River; and offers his ideas on nuclear waste, the LDS influence on Idaho politics, gun control, abortion and end-of-life ethics. His behind-the-scenes accounts of the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area include lovely details.”

Carlson and Ridenbaugh Press’ Randy Stapilus will take a circumnavigation tour through all the regions and most of the larger cities of Idaho starting a week from now. More information about that (inclulding what is meant by a “circumnavigation tour”) will be available here soon.

Carlson was the first member of the Northwest Power Planning Council (since renamed, but very much active), and in the book he calls for elimination of the council – though he suggests that a different structure be followed up afterward to replace what he considers to have been a toothless tiger.

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rainey BARRETT


A few miles from our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, we’re witnessing an act of economic, civic and politically assisted suicide being committed by residents of Curry County. It’s a deliberate failure to shoulder local fiscal responsibility unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Especially considering Curry has one of the very lowest property tax rates in the state.

Curry County borders California on the South and the Pacific Ocean on the West. It’s a bit isolated. About 25,000 people live there – give or take one more retiree. Over 50% of monthly deposits in financial institutions in the area come from government benefits or retirement plans – many from out-of-state. Gives you an idea of the age and status of the population.

Of the dozen or so Oregon counties hurting right now because of the reduction – and pending elimination – of a federal subsidy paid in lieu of taxes on local federal timber lands, Curry is in the worst shape. The county has three towns – Brookings-Harbor, Gold Beach and Port Orford. City and county budget cuts made over the last couple of years already have gotten into muscle and bone. Unemployment, homelessness and crime are all above normal. Even for there.

Sheriff John Bishop is working with nearly no resources. He’s already on half-staff, not covering the county several hours each day, reduced patrols and living with a jail that’s mediaeval. People are being arrested – some more than once – arraigned and turned loose. Bishop is a hardworking professional dealing with the worst county civic support in Oregon.

This month, Curry commissioners put a special property tax question on the ballot with all future proceeds – all – going to law enforcement. If passed, city homeowners faced a property tax increase of $1.97 per thousand evaluation – county residents $1.84 per thousand. The hope was to raise $5.4 million for the jail, Sheriff’s Office, juvenile department and the district attorney. Absolutely no question about need. None.

On election day, just under 50% of the 13,501 registered voters took time to do their duty. Final count: 44% yes – 56% no. Killed big time. One of the commissioners was absolutely giddy. “I think the failure is an opportunity – huge opportunity to sit with citizens and see what we can do. It’s all good!”

To understand how goofy those remarks are, you should know an 18-member committee of local, very experienced citizens – selected by the county commission – spent nearly a year with expert outside consulting, going over every dime in recent budgets. With a great deal more talent than is represented on the current commission, that group came up with more than a dozen, well-researched ideas to deal with the situation. Answers.

The report was shelved and ignored. There’s some evidence some of the appointers may not have even read it.

Sheriff Bishop has been very, very clear about the situation. Without the tax, many criminals will not be arrested, no officers may be available to promptly respond to even the worst crimes, should an arrest be made there may be no place to jail the offender. Curry County is already a favored spot of – as the Sheriff puts it – “the Mexican Mafia” for back country marijuana growing, insurance rates for homeowners and businesses are going up because of increased crime and reduced law enforcement, the county’s liabilities and the sheriff’s obligations – required by law – to maintain safety and welfare are becoming impossible.

He’s got an additional problem from neighboring Josephine County which previously rejected a law enforcement tax levy. Criminals arrested are charged and routinely released because the jail is all but closed. At least two armed posse comitatus groups are circulating in rural parts of that county. Just a matter of time till someone gets killed. And that action is spilling over into Curry thanks to Highway 199.

“But wait,” as they say in those irritating commercials. “There’s more!”

The Oregon Legislature is working on several bills to handle the situation if Curry goes down the tubes. Which is becoming more likely. But the three city councils and the commissioners are fighting because each is afraid the State would take local revenues and reapportion them based on need and not by the old traditional formulas. Somebody could come up short.

So – here’s the picture. Within weeks, Curry County is likely to be insolvent. Bankrupt. Local law enforcement is becoming increasingly unable to carry out responsibilities of safety and citizen welfare. Crime and unemployment are rising. Homeowner and business insurance rates are going up as a result. Some folks are moving out. More businesses will fail. Local elected officials are at each other’s throats. And citizens are firmly unwilling to fix it.

Oregon is an “assisted suicide” state. But the law says the patient must already be in a terminal condition. Residents of Curry County have gone beyond that. They’re actively killing their way of life. And that’s murder.

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mendiola MARK


The Idahoans who called into U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s town hall teleconference Wednesday night, May 22, virtually all expressed concerns about the federal government’s increasingly intrusive actions that they fear are eroding their constitutional rights.

The nation’s debt crisis, the Internal Revenue Service, Obamacare, illegal immigration, the U.S. Farm Bill and gun control were among the hot button topics touched upon during the hour long call-in event.

Crapo noted that the U.S. national debt now approaches $17 trillion with Washington doing little to brake torrid deficit spending. “Entitlement programs all are screaming toward insolvency. We have a significant battle in front of us the next few months,” he said. “We’re seeing one-to-two trillion dollars in new taxes hitting the American people.”

President Obama successfully has pushed dozens of taxing and spending increases via different bills without tax and entitlement reforms getting enacted, the Republican said, noting there is a tremendous amount of gridlock in the nation’s capital.

“Our Social Security is going full speed toward insolvency, which means not just our children and grandchildren, but everybody … is going to see their benefits dramatically reduced,” Crapo said. Medicare also is heading for bankruptcy sooner than Social Security, and Medicaid is not far behind.

The “unfair, complex and expensive” U.S. tax code badly needs reform, he said, adding tax rates could be lowered by broadening the tax base and eliminating abusive tax loopholes.

Crapo served on the Bowles-Simpson National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and was among the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators charged with resolving the debt ceiling crisis. He also serves on Senate banking and finance committees.

Crapo said he grilled Treasury Secretary Jack Lew about whether the IRS’ income tax audits of hundreds of conservative political and religious groups was politically motivated. Lew appeared before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

Noting he has called for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal, Crapo said: “I will do everything I can to stop this from being covered up.” Both Democrat and Republican senators “are not going to drop this any time soon until we get to the bottom of this,” he added, saying deep layers are involved.

Crapo predicted an independent prosecutor also will be engaged to determine the truth of what happened Sept. 11, 2012, when an American ambassador and three other Americans were murdered at the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. He accused the Obama administration of conducting a “complete disinformation campaign” to deny it was an act of terror.

“The House of Representatives will not let this slide and will investigate to the fullest extent,” he said.

When a man from Spirit Lake said he is worried about the IRS enforcing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” after the IRS was shown to target conservatives on an enemies list. “This is like a death sentence,” he said, wondering if the IRS will determine who gets life-saving medical treatment.

“You raise a very serious concern,” Crapo said, explaining although the legislation does not give the IRS the ability to control doctors, it does put the federal agency in charge of enforcing compliance and creates an entirely new division, requiring the hiring of “thousands and thousands of new IRS agents.”

The IRS will collect, maintain and monitor information on all Americans to make sure they obtain appropriate health care insurance. “I personally believe this is another huge intrusion by the federal government. It adds insult to injury.”

The senator reassured one senior Pocatello citizen that people who turn 70 will not lose their medical care or be refused treatment under Obamacare.

In response to a question posed by a Boisean, Crapo said “another huge overreach occurring at the federal government level” is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was “passed by the president and his allies to establish an entire new regulatory regime.”

The bureau’s jurisdiction includes banks, credit unions, insurance companies, securities firms, pay day lenders, mortgage-servicing operations, foreclosure relief services and other financial companies. Obama’s controversial appointment during last January’s congressional recess of Richard Cordray to direct the CFPB has drawn fire from Republicans, who challenge its constitutionality.

Without an executive board, only one individual directs the bureau, which issues its own rules, does not report to Congress and boasts a direct line to hundreds of millions of Federal Reserve dollars. Crapo mentioned he is sponsoring legislation to audit the Federal Reserve, which he said has never been audited. “The bottom line is the United States should control its own currency.”

The CFPB is collecting information about credit card, bank account and mortgage transactions, Crapo said. “It has been collecting financial information on individual Americans. … I hope Americans across the country start speaking up about this.”

When asked how citizens can make a difference, Crapo suggested contacting their congressional delegates, joining large organizations that support their beliefs and sounding off on social media sites. “Grassroots politics really does still work.”

Crapo agreed with one man who said new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulations hurt middle class borrowers. “As we have approached the mortgage crisis in the country, the solutions in some cases seem to be backwards,” he said, adding he hopes reforms will be in effect within the next several months. “If we don’t fix this, we could go right back into another mortgage crisis.”

Crapo said he has not decided yet how he will vote on the pending Farm Bill and 840-page immigration reform bill until he can study their details. The Farm Bill is critically important to many Idahoans, and “all Americans are aware we face an immigration crisis in America,” he said, adding he wants to ensure that illegal aliens do not take jobs and benefits from U.S. citizens.

A woman in Boise said she is concerned that millions of people who have come illegally into the United States will become eligible for federal benefits, including food stamps, welfare and earned income tax credits paid for by American taxpayers. Crapo also was asked if food stamps will be cut drastically under the new Farm Bill.

Crapo said he strongly opposes gun control legislation introduced in the Senate that would deprive Americans of their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. He said record ammunition purchases by federal agencies are “raising a lot of eyebrows” and have caused shortages for law enforcement.

On a personal note, Crapo said his election campaign’s recently disclosed inadvertent loss of $250,000 was very discouraging and distressing. He said law enforcement authorities were notified and steps taken to ensure such an incident never recurs.

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