Writings and observations

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

One of the guiding principles for legislators and other elected officials is often summed up by the phrase “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Elected officials are lobbied by a variety of special interests who seek advantage for their respective enterprise by seeing a law or regulation passed that will give them a competitive advantage although it is sold to lawmakers as increasing efficiency or a new and better way to generate tax revenue.

Lawmakers listen, deliberate and then say yeah or nay with the guiding thought of what is the greatest good for the greatest number.

Another guiding principle is the need for laws to protect the lives of people.

The first law of the social contract is that people band together to protect life, especially the weak, young, elderly, and disabled from the strong, the greedy, the selfish who exploit weakness wherever it is seen.

For Idahoans these two guiding principles should be kept in mind as the public is asked to comment in hearings before the Idaho Transportation Board on regulations needed for the implementation of a new law passed by the Legislature at the behest of Idaho Forest Group, Potlatch and Clearwater Paper to allow on north Idaho roads the weight of trucks to be increased from a limit of 106,000 pounds to 129,000 pounds.

Dear reader, this quite simply is not in the public interest nor would it be safe, especially in wintertime. It is a classic case of corporate interests rationalizing their desire to maximize their profits regardless of the increased risk to the driving public.

Look at a map of north Idaho and note the facilities owned by Idaho Forest Group. From Moyie Springs to Laclede to Grangeville to Lewiston, to Chilcoe, the firm, the result of a merger several years ago, has its mills in disparate locations. Someone, somewhere within the company no doubt did a study that showed if they could increase the weight of whatever they hauled between these facilities they could reduce operating expenses and make a few bucks more.

But at what price? Some critics cite the increased weight doing more damage to roads and bridges, but a ten year study in southern Idaho supposedly showed that not to be the case. That’s not really the issue, though.

The issue is and the only question that matters is will this extra bit of profit come at the expense of more risk to and the eventual loss of human life. The fact that only one hauler was brave enough to testify against the bill should be telling, and yes, off the record the major haulers in the region reportedly said they had gotten the word to keep quiet their reservations.

The lone brave hauler expressed genuine concern about how unsafe he and all twenty of his drivers felt the increased weight would be.

Here’s the other kicker to keep in mind. If in the wintertime a 129,000 pound truck going down the Winchester grade on Highway 95, starts to slide in an icy spot and the second oft-times smaller trailer starts to swing into the oncoming lane, and hits an oncoming vehicle that results in serious injury or death, guess who is most liable?

You guessed it – the hauler, even though he may be hauling product for Idaho Forest Group under contract, IFG does not have to concern itself with the safety issue because they don’t own the trucks. The safety issue is the haulers’ concern not theirs. So the north Idaho ‘big three” get all the benefit and none of the new risk. Isn’t that interesting?

Fortunately, even Governor Butch Otter when signing a special interest bill he should have vetoed, underscored that the rulemaking process had to operate on the principle of safety first, of protecting life not putting it at risk, of reflecting the greatest good for the greatest number.

Let’s hope the public reinforces that message and that this piece of special interest legislation gives way to the public interest.

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Carlson

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

The Oregonian has been running a fine series – as of today, unfortunately, concluded – of interview pieces profiling the attitudes of various Oregonians about guns. Many of them have been enlightening and thoughtful, but a pairing of two of them shines a bright light on the most serious and distinctive gun divide we have.

Both are of young men, both proud gun owners and advocates for gun ownership. What’s different is their perspective and viewpoint underlying their attitudes.

Today’s interview was with Brian Jarvis of Dallas, 29, owner of a rifle and pistol. He grew up in a rural family where gun ownership was simply an understood part of life, and understood in a particular way: “I was raised that a person’s ownership of firearms is a provision of family for food, for security and basically to set an example for the next generation.”

That much, about his take on his world, is easier for someone from a different perspective to take, probably, than Jarvis’ view of them: “What I see is people who are afraid of guns because they were not raised to see them in the same light that I was. They see the gangster on TV shooting up a block, bullets flying everywhere. That scares the tar out of me, too, but I sense that people who don’t own guns don’t want to learn about guns, and instead of stepping out and accepting the responsibility of our world and learning about them, they would rather take the right to own a gun away.”

A mixed reaction here to this part. Jarvis overstates the eagerness of non-gun enthusiasts to “take the right to own a gun away” – no more than a sliver of people are in favor of that. He is probably correct, though, that many non-gun owners fail to take the trouble to learn more about guns before issuing pronouncements about them.

Still, on balance, a large majority of Americans probably could nod their heads in general agreement with most of Jarvis’ perspective, even if their experience and his are a little different. As far as it goes, at least, his viewpoint represents something most Americans could likely accept; it’s a mainstream view.

Here’s a second interview, of Trevor LeeJack Francois of Gresham, 18, who’s about to enter the Army. Here’s the key line from his interview:

“I feel powerful with my guns. My dad doesn’t like me keeping them in my room, but I can’t live without them. I feel lost when they are not with me. We live in a crazy world, and I guess the guns help me feel safe.”

Credit Francois this: He has opened up, and taken us to the heart of his thoughts.

Were you to deny Jarvis his firearms, he would (based on the interview we see) protest, and as argument for keeping his weapons would speak of tradition, culture, the ability to hunt for food, and some additional ability to defend himself. These points would not be hard to understand and deal with, even for people who aren’t positioned the same way he is.

Were you to do the same to Francois, you’re denying him a sense of personal power (that, presumably, he doesn’t get elsewhere), exposure in a world of life and death, real peril, and a sense of being utterly lost. Confront a person with that, and what sort of political reaction would you expect?

The divide between someone like Jarvis and someone like Francois is the really important chasm in the gun debate, It is not the line between gun owners vs. non-owners or between Second Amendment advocates vs. some supposed cadre of gun seizers. This is the proximate point at which the issue becomes hard to resolve – when it reaches not a point of disagreement over details, but a point of panic.

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Stapilus

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Like a lot of other things in our America these days, poverty ain’t what it used to be. It’s not where it used to be. It’s not who it used to be. And we in the West are among the prime statistical examples of the “new” poverty that seems to be under most people’s radar.

When we think of poverty – if we do – the picture that normally comes to mind is inner city or some of the smaller, mostly rural communities around us. Not so, McGee. Suburban poverty is the fastest growing segment of poor in America – up 64% in the last decade.

Brookings Institution has a new book out – “Confronting Suburban Poverty In America.” Using Census Bureau records and other numeric profile sources, the bottom line is this: almost 16.4 million suburban residents now live below the poverty line with just under three-million more in cities.

Check out the numbers for our region’s largest population areas. In the last decade, the number of people living in poverty in the suburbs of Seattle has increased 78.9% – Portland 99.3% – Boise 129.7% – Las Vegas 139.3% and Salt Lake City up 141.7%!

Co-author Elizabeth Kneebone found many reasons for this silent shifting of people below the official poverty line of $23,021 income per year.

“As wealthier folks moved to the suburbs,” she says, “a lot of companies did, too. Following along, people from inner cities looking for jobs joined the quiet parade. Service sector was a major employer but most workers were paid minimum wage or slightly higher.” Then the bottom fell out.

When the “great recession” came along, many of those jobs disappeared. Lower income folks were stuck. Businesses closed, unemployment went up and formerly middle class families started to slide down the economic ladder into poverty.

Compounding this new and growing problem has been a government that’s kept directing resources to the inner cities where poverty has historically existed. As people being served moved out to the ‘burbs, the programs didn’t move with them. Now, with our damned sequestration, agencies that have been providing the “safety net” are both miles away and losing their own funding. So, people at or near the poverty level fled inner cities to follow the jobs but the government support resources didn’t. Now they can’t.

As is the case with so many other “people” programs, the faces of Americans feeling real pain – and hunger – are unseen by members of the most disgraceful Congress in recent American history. Between crippling gridlock and sequestration – neither of which are being addressed – millions of people are losing employment, losing homes, losing whatever savings they may have had and – in too many cases – going hungry.

What the hell does it take to get 535 people making $174,500 a year each – plus travel and expenses – to get off their asses and back to work to stop the suffering in this country for the millions of Americans who make less than $23,021 a year?

The poverty that used to be out there – inner cities and small, rural communities – is now in America’s vaunted suburbs. People – strangers – who need our help to have shelter and food – have gone from over there to here – right next door.

Life – however tough – goes on. Out of sight and out of mind for those we elected to take care of things.

What the hell do we have to do?

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Rainey