idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Last week’s column on a possible bidding contest among private corporations for managing one of Idaho’s prisons drew two complaints. Let’s deal with them here.

One came from Gallatin Public Affairs at Boise, which said its client Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah-based private prison operator mentioned briefly in the column, had a beef. I wrote that MTC “is considered one of the comers in the business” (not disputed), and: “On May 30, news reports surfaced about a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of prisoners at its East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, alleging ‘barbaric’ conditions and denial of health and other basic care.”

The representative said that “MTC is not connected with this lawsuit and your readers are led to believe it is. … We would like MTC to be taken out of the column that mentions the lawsuit against Geo.”

I didn’t say MTC was a party to the lawsuit, even that it was “connected.” Still, surely MTC would prefer greater clarity to erasure or cover-up. An editor of mine often said that when a writer opens a door, he should walk through it; especially, as here, given MTC’s interest in Idaho (it operates the Idaho Correctional Alternative Placement Program). So, is MTC “connected” to the lawsuit?

The East Mississippi Correction Facility is a 1,500-bed prison mainly for mentally ill men, opened in 1999. In that state the Department of Corrections is responsible for all prisons, but it contracted operation of this one to the private GEO Group. Problems emerged, a state official said “MDOC was not satisfied,” and prisoners complained. MTC, self-described as “the third largest private operator of adult correctional facilities in the world,” was hired to replace it, and has run EMCF since July 2012.

On May 30 this year, a lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union for a group of prisoners at EMCF. The complaint, which is gritty reading, is online: www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/case/complaint.pdf. The defendants are not MTC, or for that matter GEO, but rather state corrections officials, since they are “vested with the exclusive responsibility for management and control of the correctional system …”

Much of the complaint deals with the GEO years, but it includes events since July 2012. “In September 2012, prisoners on Unit 5C had no showers for three weeks” (page 9); “In May 2013, there was no electrical power on the top tier of Plaintiff Covington’s zone for several days” (page 9); in late 2012, a prisoner who hanged himself was cut down, locked in an isolation cell and not seen by a psychiatrist (page 12). A legally blind prisoner, robbed in July 2012, was robbed again in January and April this year (page 36). It cites guard abuses of prisoners in late 2012 and this year (pages 46-48). And more.

MTC and GEO are lightly mentioned by name (some unfavorable references do turn up), but the filing generally is written in the present, not the past, tense. In the opening paragraph: “Today, EMCF is an extremely dangerous facility operating in a perpetual state of crisis, where prisoners live in barbaric and horrific conditions and their basic human rights are violated daily.” Present tense. The area director of the SPLC said early in June, “We were there two weeks ago … This is happening right now.”

Allegations are not proof, of course, and opinions on conditions and improvements vary. State prison officials have said East Mississippi is “a much better place” since MTC took over, and MTC’s spokesman notes decreased numbers of assaults and other incidents, and hiring of new social and education professionals: “MTC has made significant improvements since taking over the facility less than a year ago.”

Is MTC “not connected with this lawsuit”? You decide.

The second column complaint was from a reader irritated no mention was made of the Kingman, Arizona prison operated by MTC, where in the summer of 2010 three prisoners, two of them convicted murderers, escaped. The prison agency’s detailed report is available at afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/kingman-assessment.pdf.

Consider it mentioned.

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Idaho Idaho column

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Here’s the truth of it. Hard and quick.

The Census Bureau has determined Oregon is the third fastest growing state in the nation. Third! But, here in the southwest part of the Oregon woods, the Oregon Department of Employment says half of all residents – 16 years and older – are unemployed and not looking for work. In two neighboring counties, it’s even worse.

How about that for a total contradiction in one state?

The growth is coming from manufacturing – especially in the computer and electronics world. Intel, for example, has six campuses west of Portland and employs about 17,000 people there – Oregon’s largest employer. The largest contributor on the downside – all that unemployment and staying that way – is a whole other industry – trees. Not cutting as many. Not milling as many. Not shipping as much lumber. It’s been that way for several years.

But the contradictions continue. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney carried our whole neighborhood by a large margin. Not unusual, speaking politically. You could carve an “R” on a Douglas fir around here, run it for the Oregon Legislature and it might even wind up in leadership. Our backyard is that Republican.

“The contradiction,” you ask?

By any social or economic measure, this part of Oregon is firmly in that “47%” of people Romney said were reliant on government and “would never vote for a Republican anyway.” But here, they do. In very large numbers. Out-of-work, government-dependent Republican voters. Douglas, Curry and Josephine Counties just don’t recognize a second political party on the ballot.

Now, let’s look at that 50%+ of people over the age of 16 around here not working and not looking. You can subtract the disabled who can’t and seniors at an age they can’t or don’t want to work anymore and aren’t looking. Suppose all those folks totaled half of the 50%. That still leaves thousands who’re unemployed and not looking to go back into the labor force. Their income is lower and they’re likely to be on one or more government programs or retirement savings. Or nothing. We’ve got a lot of ‘em.

Still, Romney proclaimed those folks were a lost cause at the polls for him and the Republican Party. And the Party pro’s seem to accept his faulty premise. Seems they think if you ain’t working, you’re a Democrat. But around here, these folks turn out for the GOP. And they did for Romney.

Some months ago, we were told of a $12-million turn-around project to be undertaken by the National Republican Party. New technology. New staff. New message. “Kinder-gentler-softer.” “More welcoming.” “More inclusive.” So far, pure B.S.

While continuing their overwrought anti-abortion excesses at all levels and working harder to exclude minority voters, the GOP has changed absolutely nothing. At the moment, the right and far-right in Congress are fighting each other and the Republican Party seems Hellbent on going down the tubes on immigration reform, too. Pick a subject that was supposed to be a target of “change” and you’ll find nothing has. Changed. In fact, on abortion, curtailing voter rights and immigration reform, the Party has – or is about to – doubled-down on what’s cost ‘em recent elections while narrowing the party base.

Congress has become a zoo – failing us on virtually every issue. What significant economic progress achieved recently has come from a private sector laboring against an intransigent government more often creating roadblocks than making the job easier. We’ve become a nation attempting to right itself economically in the face of elected federal opposition.

Think Oregon for a moment. In the most economically active, thriving and prosperous region of the State that’s made us third fastest-growing in the nation, Democrats are winning elections from city hall to Congress. While here in the most Republican-dominated part unemployment is the highest in the state, food banks are trying hard to keep up with the accelerated demand, and the homeless are everywhere. But they’re voting for the elephants. Romney was wrong about that, too.

Oregon and a few other states have become microcosms of this situation. We’re capturing technology and what’s next while also contending with failures caused – in large part – by clinging to the way things were. One of the ironies in our backyard is that many of the timber companies have used this economic downtime to wire up new technology and learn how to do more with fewer employees. The old days ain’t coming back. But – as 50% out-of-work-and-not-looking shows – thousands of people here don’t believe that.

So, let’s take stock of what we have: a neutered, ineffective congress – a National Republican Party doomed to compound a self-inflicted, losing history at the polls – a technologically-involved private sector doing its best to grow despite political indifference and governmental failure – a significant portion of people who’ve given up or just don’t care anymore, seemingly written off by their own political party leaders – a rapidly shifting demographic to a new minority-majority nation within a few years.

We not only live in interesting times. We live with the contradictions of those times as well.

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mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

An Idaho State University vice president recently submitted proposals to Idaho Commerce Director Jeff Sayer to remove constitutional barriers impeding research and economic development at the state’s universities, which he says put them and the Gem State at a competitive disadvantage.

When he addressed the Bannock Development Corp.’s June 18 annual investor reception at Allstate’s new customer service center in Chubbuck, Dr. Howard Grimes, ISU vice president of research and economic development, mentioned he had given Sayer the proposals.

Grimes has overseen ISU’s new 250,000-square-foot Research and Innovation in Science and Engineering (RISE) Complex on Alvin Ricken Drive since November. He leads initiatives in biomedical and renewable energy research, and nano-material development for innovative sensor design, as well as environmental and geoscience networks.

He predicted the RISE Complex will dramatically change Southeast Idaho the next 15 to 20 years. “My vision is it will remain somewhat empty during its entire life span,” Grimes said, explaining new businesses will need space to operate. He expects it will be up to 80 percent full.

Grimes said he is talking with two startup companies now, and an established company is at the point it will need to do advanced manufacturing on a commercial scale. He mentioned he also is negotiating with a “very, very well-known multinational global company” whose annual net revenue exceeds $2 million.

“Six months into it, we’ve got multiple things on the burner,” he said, adding he recently was notified the National Science Foundation was awarding ISU a $5 million grant. “That is not easy to accomplish.” He expects another large grant to be announced in a matter of weeks.

The NSF also has awarded a five-year $20 million grant to Idaho universities, including ISU, to study how society and landscapes are interconnected.

Virtually every state within the past 10 years has radically altered constitutional statutes and changed policies to “incentivize” universities so they can do innovative research and economic development. “We have not done that in Idaho,” Grimes said. “Significant things need to change.”

States like Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Colorado and Utah are making major advancements in developing research universities, he noted, citing Utah State University’s 30 business startups as an example. States up and down the East and West Coasts also are well ahead of Idaho in this regard.

“Paradigm shifts need to happen in the state of Idaho for all of it to be successful,” Grimes said, emphasizing there has been a fundamental shift in the federal government’s approach to funding research. “The private sector is going to have to lead the brigade forward.”

A former Washington State University graduate school dean and research vice president, Grimes championed WSU’s largest grant funding growth in the university’s history — 85 percent since Fiscal 2008. He also directed WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach.

Grimes said universities started morphing into research and economic development five to six years ago. They have been forming teams of scientists to advance their work with private sector partners and secure grants, adopting an entirely different strategy of accelerating “lab bench to market” innovations, which previously took 20 years to complete.

bannock
Dr. Howard Grimes, left, ISU vice president of research and economic development, converses with Tim Forhan, a Sanctuary Wealth Management partner, at a Bannock Development Corp. meeting. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

Influences disrupting higher education include decreases in state funding, widespread availability of Internet courses and the emergence of new education models lavishly funded by governments around the world, Grimes said.

He stressed that the contribution education makes to work force development and its incredible impact on economic development cannot be overestimated. He said it is a myth to believe most students leave the state where they have been educated.

Universities, which are “engines of innovation,” can be good at commercializing their research and collaborating with the private sector to attract new industries or they can be horrible at it, Grimes said, noting he is the “single point of contact” at ISU for such initiatives.

“That makes it happen lots faster. The reason is I know how to do it and a lot don’t,” he said, cautioning that some faculty members can make commitments that simply are not legal or practical.

Before Grimes spoke, Bannock Development Chairman Andy Akers, who owns D&S Electrical Supply Co., noted that he, Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and BDC Executive Director John Regetz contacted 10 companies in California on a recent visit. Officials with two of those companies since have visited Pocatello.

“Those people are aching to get out of there,” Akers said of California business owners, noting that Regetz also attended trade shows that created a few leads. Those California businesses contacted represent high tech, medical products, transportation and distribution sectors.

Akers praised Mark Lupo of Idaho Power for securing two grants under the utility’s Partnering for Economic Development program — $3,500 to help fund the recent California visit and $5,000 for regional business expansion development. The California trip cost about $10,000. Bannock Development operates on a $270,000 budget.

Akers also noted that the Holiday Inn Express & Suites is constructing a new motel near Interstate 15 and ATCO is hiring 50 more workers at its Gateway West Industrial Center module housing plant.

It also was pointed out that Allstate is adding more than 500 jobs to its customer service center; ON Semiconductor has invested $37 million into its Pocatello plant the past three years; Petersen Inc., which employs 60 at its airport manufacturing plant, earned a Boeing supplier of the year award; Herberger’s employs 100 at its new Pine Ridge Mall retail store; WinCo has expanded its employment to 210 at its new grocery store, and Idaho Central Credit Union was voted one of the best places to work in the state.

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Mendiola

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

Ronald Reagan was a staunch conservative and Tip O’Neill was an equally staunch liberal. But both were old school and also believed in the art of political compromise. As a result, Reagan and O’Neill worked together on a series of successful compromises that included revisions in Social Security, working with Margaret Thatcher on establishing the Anglo-Irish Accord for peace in North Ireland, and beginning the thaw in the Cold War after O’Neill delivered a message to Mikhail Gorbachev from Reagan.

Unfortunately, in recent years there have been few major national issues that have been successfully addressed through political compromise. The end game today is playing for media sound bites and maneuvering for imagined political advantage in the next election cycle.

Now the U.S. Senate has taken a page from the playbook used earlier times when bipartisan coalitions were the norm for dealing with major issues. The issue is immigration reform and it now appears that as many as 70 Senators from both sides of the aisle may be prepared to support the bill developed by the bipartisan Gang of Eight, although the coalition probably won’t include either of Idaho’s senators.

Earlier this week I was moderator for a Boise City Club forum featuring Grover Norquist, arguably the most influential conservative voice in Washington, D.C. His subject was “Why Conservatives Should Support Immigration Reform.” He is supportive of the Senate bill for a number of reasons, but primarily because he believes that it will benefit the nation’s economy.

He is also a political pragmatist who sees the handwriting on the wall for the Republican party if they continue to offend the growing number of Hispanic voters by opposing immigration reform.

The national issue that eclipses immigration is federal deficit reduction. It is another issue that will only be successfully dealt with by forming bipartisan coalitions willing to make some compromises on issues such as entitlements, taxes and defense spending.

One of the biggest obstacles to bi-partisan compromise solutions on deficit reduction is none other than Grover Norquist, the champion of bi-partisan compromises on immigration reform. Norquist, through his organization Americans for Tax Reform, has gotten nearly every Republican in Congress to sign his pledge to not raise taxes of any sort. If a member has signed and continues to honor the pledge, he or she will only support deficit reduction efforts that focus on spending cuts.

But a growing number of Republicans who have signed that pledge have determined that it has grown irrelevant as they seek ways to reduce the deficit. Two of those individuals are Idaho’s Senator Mike Crapo and Congressman Mike Simpson. Both have indicated that everything, including revenue increases, has to be on the table as the President and Congress deal with the deficit.

Peter King, a Republican Congressman from New York, said it best several months ago on “Meet the Press.” “A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress,” King said. “For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a declaration of war against Japan. I’m not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed. And the economic situation is different.”

If Congress succeeds in dealing with the immigration issue on a bi-partisan compromise basis, perhaps the gates will have opened to similar efforts to deal with other major issues such as deficit reduction.

It would be good to have the shrill voices of no-compromise special interests on both side of the aisle grow increasingly irrelevant and have the real interests of the American people once again take center stage in Washington. Making Congress a respected and productive part of American society, as it once was, is in everyone’s best interest.

Marty Peterson is retired and lives in Boise.

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Peterson

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Sent a letter off to Governor C/L. “Butch” Otter this week asking him to take the lead among northwest governors and abolish the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The request is a formal follow up to the case I made about the irrelevancy of the Council in today’s energy environment in my recent book, Medimont Reflections.

Copies were sent to Governor Otter’s other northwest colleagues – Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, and Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Additional copies were sent to Washington’s senior U.S. Senator, Patty Murray, to Steve Crow – the Council’s executive director, and to Idaho’s two members on the Council, Bill Booth, from Hayden Lake, and Jim Yost, from Boise.

Fact is, the Council has been a colossal failure, especially in its stated mission to enhance and protect dwindling wild salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia and Snake River basins. Fact is the Council has overseen the wastage of billions of ratepayer dollars in a futile effort to come up, along with other Federal agencies, a biologically protective dam operations plan (called “Bi-ops”) that will meet the test of Federal District Court approval.

Fact is the Council has spent in excess of $221 million to operate during its 32 years of existence but has virtually nothing to show for the ratepayer’s investment. In late March Bonneville produced a summary sheet of the amount of dollars spent, and the amount of revenue lost, trying to enhance wild fish runs during the first 11 years of this new century.

The total sum was a stunning, staggering $7.35 billion. Incredible. And what do they have to show the ratepayers for this outlay? Virtually nothing. By any standard, they have failed in their mission and should be abolished.

The 1980 Act that established the Council also provided a formula for funding the Council – a percentage of the anticipated annual firm power sales. It roughly was the equivalent of about $2 million a year.

Full disclosure on my part: as the first Idaho appointee to the Council I played a significant role in making sure the first budget had enough to set up offices in Montana and Idaho for those states Council members so as to be able to match the downriver states Council offices which were supported by much larger state energy offices.

Thus, the first budget came in at three times the limit, a number slightly in excess of $6 million. This was enough to cover set up costs and required a waiver from the Bonneville Power Administration’s new chief executive and administrator, Peter Johnson, himself an Idahoan and the former chairman of Idaho-based Trus-Joist Corporation. I never dreamed that subsequent annual budgets would remain in the range of annually expending between $6 and $8 million dollars.

No organization likes to sunset itself or admits it has failed its mission.

The 1980 law, however, presciently saw that the Council could fail and provides a simple mechanism for disbanding it. Three of the region’s four governors merely have to write the Interior Secretary and request it be disbanded and it will be.

Do I expect this happen? No. Even though Governor Otter likes to talk the need to shrink government, when asked earlier this month on KLIX radio in Twin Falls whether he would support disbanding the Council quickly rose to its defense and claimed it played a useful role though he could not cite any specifics.

The fact is the Council positions have become well-paid plum appointments, patronage appointments, if you will that a governor can reward a friend or strong supporter with and not worry about the perception of wasting dollars on an entity more known now for junkets and endless hearings around the region than any substantive achievement. Money after all for the Council primarily comes from downstream ratepayers, not Idaho taxpayers.

Governor Otter should reconsider his position and walk his talk about shrinking needless entities, but he won’t. Just as he won’t respond to my letter. Politicians now days don’t respond to critics, especially in a one-party state where they constantly get away with ignoring those who disagree with them. Another word for such behavior is hypocrisy.

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rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

While the U.S. Supreme Court gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) can probably be strictly legally supported, minorities in this country have even more to fear. The decision – questionable or not – throws their future access to the polls into the hands of the most do-nothing, divided, regressive and inoperable congress in recent history. And that ain’t good.

The challenge to the VRA was based primarily on Section 5 – that portion requiring certain states and other government entities holding elections to get U.S. Justice Department approval of their election rules if they appeared on a list of locales where previous election discrimination had been proven. In the 1960′s. The plaintiff’s argument was basically “We’ve changed and what we intentionally did wrong before we don’t do now so we shouldn’t be forced to comply with decisions based on 50-year-old data.”

While the Justices bought that claim 5-4 – apparently believing previous discriminatory practices had likely ended – the question is: have they? Some new serious statistical evidence suggests – they haven’t.

In May, law professors Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer (University of California Cal-Davis and University of Connecticut) published a study arguing “the list of states required to obtain federal approval under VRA ‘remarkably mirrors the geography of anti-black prejudice’ in the United States today.”

“What we generated,” Elmendorf said, “is an answer to the question (whether racial voting conditions in specific states had really changed) asked by the chief justice during oral arguments. Defendant was unable to answer.”

Using a 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey, the professors asked non-blacks to rank their own racial group against blacks regarding intelligence, trustworthiness and work ethic. Respondents ranked their racial group above blacks by an average of 15 points in each category.

The results were striking. Their mathematical model suggests, of the states with the highest percentage of people biased against blacks, six are Southern: Lousiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. All have been previously required to seek fed approval for election law changes under the VRA based on past bad practices. But no longer.

Two other states – Arizona and Alaska – also were required to get government approval of voting changes. But Elmendorf and Spencer note, while those two ranked much lower in black bias, their data indicates Arizona’s bias is against Hispanics and Alaska’s is anti-Native American.

Certainly some racial bias likely exists in all states. But – no matter how the researchers crunched the numbers in this example – “the Deep South states went right to the top,” according to Elmendorf.

So, let’s take stock. SCOTUS says things have changed racially. The above-cited survey – and others – show the same old bias’s still exist. Which leaves the whole thing up to 435 people who can’t agree on what time it is or whose watch to use. If that’s not bad enough, states-after-Republican-controlled-states are doing their damndest to stop minorities from registering and voting. At a time in our political history when we need some stability, SCOTUS has tipped the scales to even more problems.

Minorities have a right to worry about being disenfranchised. Responsible Americans in the majority should be equally concerned. Speaker Boehner has proven he can’t even pass gas let alone serious legislation. It’s quite likely his farm bill debacle will be followed by a similar disaster dealing with any immigration bill that passes the upper house. And, failing some prompt corrective action on voting rights in Congress, the offending states will continue to be hellbent on cutting access to the vote. That’s not just speculation. It’s been happening for several elections. Even in some of the states on the now-defunct list of violators.

We’ve got a long string of domino s here. The right of full, free access to the voting booth needs the support of the court. But to get effective court backup, justices need to be presented with a new law that meets constitutional standards. But such a law must come out of a congress that is gridlocked and hopelessly ineffective. Without such a law, states that have proven they will deny voting access to non-whites have free range to construct all sorts of barriers. Barriers that would have to be broken by – wait for it – the U.S. Supreme Court.

Minority access to the vote is as much in danger today as it was in 1965. What the Hell just happened?

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Rainey

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

You would think that the broader economy would be part of any discussion about austerity. If the economy is getting stronger, well, then government budget cuts are more easily absorbed. On the other hand, if the economy is fragile, then budget cuts make it worse because the government itself is such an important part of the economy.

So government as an engine of growth — something that is absolutely a fact in Indian Country — is rarely considered by conservatives in the political context. Unless it’s about Defense-related jobs.

A study last month, for example, said the Pentagon could manage the sequester far more effectively if it permanently cut its civilian workforce by tens of thousands of jobs. But Congress doesn’t like that idea and is hostile to closing more bases as a way to save money. One Virginia Republican is proposing legislation that, according to Government Executive magazine, would “prohibit the department from proposing, planning or initiating another round of Base Realignment and Closure.”

But when it comes to the economy, especially long term, the choices of where government invests money is important to growth. Just think what it would mean if education spending had the same sort of passion from Congress as the military with specific legislation that prohibited the closing of a school or university. (Or even better: laws requiring full funding.)

One power the government does have to invest in economy, save an economy, or just meddle in an economy (depending on your point of view). But it is that role that the government last week hinted that it is backing away from. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been using extraordinary tools to do what it could to prop up the economy without support from Congress. As Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times yesterday: “For the most part, Ben Bernanke and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve have been good guys in these troubled economic times. They have tried to boost the economy even as most of Washington seemingly either forgot about the jobless, or decided that the best way to cure unemployment was to intensify the suffering of the unemployed.” Krugman’s conclusion is that it’s the “wrong signal to be sending given the state of the economy. We’re still very much living through what amounts to a low-grade depression — and the Fed’s bad messaging reduces the chances that we’re going to exit that depression any time soon.”

Other economic observers fear an even bigger problem, deflation. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, a European columnist in The Telegraph wrote: “I hope the Fed knows what it is doing.” He points out that a tighter monetary policy makes less sense when the core inflation metric is lower now than when the Fed began using its powers. “America is one shock away from a slide into outright deflation, and the eurozone is half a shock away.”

We live inflation. We go to the store and it costs more for our basic supplies, food, gas, even sending children to college. Then the deal was we would get a bigger pay check to make up for these increasing costs.

But that has not been happening. And if you look at the larger economy, inflation itself has been extraordinary low. For its part, the Fed says it is still watching this trend. One Federal Reserve Bank president told Bloomberg News that if inflation remains low, despite what Bernanke said, the Fed might need to find a way to “provide more accommodation.”

How will deflation impact Indian Country? The answer is that tribes, or individuals, with a lot of cash will be fine because their purchasing power will be stronger. But tribes, and individuals, that carry a lot of debt will be in tough shape because while the value of the debt stays the same, it will be harder to raise the money required to pay back that debt.

The Fed might change its mind and do what it can to prevent deflation. But that doesn’t mean a thing to Congress. The austerity crowd is bent on shrinking government. No matter the human toll.

The author Mark Blyth in his new book, “Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea,” describes the threat this way. “Austerity is a form of voluntary deflation in which the economy adjusts through the reduction of wages, prices, and public spending to restore competitiveness, which is (supposedly) best achieved by cutting the state’s budget, debts, and deficits.”

“Voluntary” deflation? More like a self-inflicted wound.

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 Facebook page is open at:
https://www.facebook.com/IndianCountryAusterity

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idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

The Idaho Board of Correction said last week it would not routinely roll over its contract with the Corrections Corporation of America for managing the Idaho Correctional Center near Boise, and instead would put it up for bid among the various private prison companies out there – but would not consider a proposal from the state Department of Corrections.

What they appear not to have indicated is why they think another private provider would do better.

The need to improve on the track record of CCA, which runs the Idaho Correctional Center near Boise, is obvious enough. It has admitted to understaffing and overbilling the state – I’ll leave it to you to process what that means – and it has been accused of much more, up to and including running a “gladiator school” in which discipline and control are maintained in considerable part by criminal gangs.

Here’s the catch: Within the private prison industry sector, CCA may actually be the best there is.

It is the largest private prison company in the country, and much the most experienced, starting with its first prison contract in Tennessee in 1984. For all the bad headlines CCA has gotten over the years – (Idaho is no aberration: There have been many concerning facilities around the country) – the other firms in the field have gotten their share too.

The second-largest such company, and roughly in CCA’s ballpark in terms of size and clout, is the Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut), which also operates in many states. Try Googling it and you’ll come back with a stunning track record. There was the 2001 inmate murder in Texas after which the firm was sued not just over the death, but also over destruction of evidence. There were eight deaths at a Delaware County, Pennsylvania, facility between 2005 and 2009 (after which Geo withdrew from its management). An insider report on a Pompano Beach, Florida facility reported “substandard or callous medical care, including a woman taken for ovarian surgery and returned the same day, still bleeding, to her cell, and a man who urinated blood for days but wasn’t taken to see a doctor.” (That one led to a congressional and federal agency inquiry.)

After CCA and Geo the companies get smaller, but Management & Training Corporation (MTC) is considered one of the comers in the business. On May 30, news reports surfaced about a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of prisoners at its East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, alleging “barbaric” conditions and denial of health and other basic care.

So it goes.

It’s worth knowing that the state Department of Correction’s record with state-run prison, by contrast, while not perfect, is a lot cleaner than these.

So why would the state even consider going down this road again?

Board of Correction Chairwoman Robin Sandy was quoted as saying a state Department of Correction takeover of the private would be an expansion of state government. That’s ridiculous, of course; the state is paying for the prisoners, their housing and the facilities they’re in, whether state or private employees are overseeing them.

But the state does have a serious choice to make about what kind of responsibility it takes for the people it locks up, and for the public exposed to them when they get out.

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Idaho Idaho column

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The absolutely most hated thing in the “Republican Book of Hates” is when someone up the political food chain tries to give orders to someone further down the chain – tries to tell ‘em how to live – what to do – what not to do – what to pay for. When any of those happen, it sets Republican hair on fire!

So saying, consider one of the dumbest moves the Idaho Republican Party could make when such philosophy is threatened – by Idaho Republicans.

The State Central Committee has decided the Goofy Old Party must step in to save local governments from themselves. Those down the ladder. To wit – no city or county in Idaho should be able to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance to protect all its citizens. And – should that sentiment be ignored – the legislature should make sure those passed are unenforceable.

Am I alone in seeing a “do-what-I-say-not-as-I-do” situation here? Shouldn’t there be a smell of burning hair in the air?

Two immutable facts. First, all citizens – ALL citizens everywhere – deserve equal protection of our laws. Protection assured and provided in the most even-handed of ways. Just Basic Citizenship Guarantees #101.

Second, to all intents, Idaho is a one-political-party state. GOP. Total control of all state offices and overwhelming numbers in the legislature. Further, nearly all legislative leaders (the tails) come from small communities and they’ve wagged their big city cousins (the dogs) for a long, long time.

Over the past year, half a dozen Idaho cities put anti-discrimination ordinances on the books. A couple more are considering it. In fact, a quarter of the state’s population already lives under such rules.

Now to be fair, the closed-minded Republican cretin types that make up the State Central Committee aren’t saying there should be NO protections. No, Sir! They just don’t want to offer equal protections for different “sexual orientations.” Just that one group of citizens. Just “them.”

One of the excuses – pardon me – “reasons” for this GOP attempt to exempt some of us from the protections assured for all of us is that such local ordinances could interfere with the “free exercise of religion.”

Say what?

I suppose the continuing national Republican onslaught to keep minorities from voting in state after state is somehow tied to interfering with someone’s “free exercise of religion.” Or maybe cutting food stamps – defunding Planned Parenthood – erecting every conceivable roadblock to abortions and gutting gun laws at every turn slops over into this “free exercise of religion” B.S.

While Idaho is the “pig-on-the-verbal-barbeque” here, the small-minded efforts of that state’s controlling party are just one more affront to this nation’s democracies and guarantees of full rights of citizenship. A minority of scared – mostly white people – is striking out at our institutions of government and privileges of citizenship with increasing fervor. Despite promises to be more “inclusive” the daily Republican proof is just the opposite. If it ain’t white, a selected shade of Protestant and preferably Anglo Saxon to the core, it’s gotta be killed before it can multiply. And “infringe on our religious exercise.”

If the patently discriminatory State Republican Central Committee demand of the Idaho Legislature seems quaint or weird to you, that’s only because you haven’t been following the actions of that bunch for long. The Idaho GOP has cost all taxpayers within the state’s wandering borders millions of tax dollars over many years in continual losing court battles – trying to do things single-mindedly unconstitutional or illegal. Many of the warped laws created in that body have caused establishment of – and funding for – the “Idaho Attorney Perpetual Employment and Retirement Fund.”

The only bright spot for an Idaho taxpayer is several other states have previously passed bills authored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which are already being thrown out by various courts. If the Idaho Legislature moves just a bit slower – and can refrain from signing up as co-sponsor on some of this ALEC trash or that of its own central committee – enough money may be saved to better fund the state’s education system and get it out of 49th place. Just ahead of Utah. Where Republicans … well, you know.

There were many other backward-looking and strange items up for action on the Idaho GOP Central Committee’s agenda. Requesting a law allowing discrimination based only on sexual orientation was just one. But I gotta go. Something’s burning.

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Rainey

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

The news of what the Oregonian will be doing, and not doing, by and on October 1, was bad enough. But do they have to insult our intelligence, and do a really bad job of dodging the facts in a hail or corporate bafflegab, at the same time?

Here’s how the Oregonian story on the new developments begins: ” A new, digitally focused media company, Oregonian Media Group, will launch this fall to expand news and information products in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The new company, which will launch October 1, will operate OregonLive.com and publish The Oregonian and its related print products. A separate company, Advance Central Services Oregon, will provide support services for Oregonian Media Group and other companies. Oregonian Media Group will introduce new and improved digital products, including enhancements to Oregon’s largest news website, OregonLive.com. The company will provide up-to-the-minute news and information, when and where readers want it – on their desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets. At the same time, it will continue to publish Oregon’s oldest, largest and leading newspaper.”

Sounds fine, doesn’t it? Doesn’t sound very significant to the average reader, does it?

Of course, what’s really happening, and what’s not even really hinted at in those opening sentences, is this: The paper is cutting back home delivery from seven to three times a week (there’s a fig leaf about a “Saturday edition,” but evidently it will be delivered with the Sunday paper). There will be layoffs – no specific word on how many, but word circulating is that they will be large. The paper will move out of its long-time building gently uphill from Portland’s downtown, to some smaller digs, no longer needing the space. And so on.

You can find an actual comprehensible news report about what’s happening and what its significance is, at Willamette Week.

What it comes to is this: The Oregonian will no longer be a true daily newspaper (at least not in any sense that distinguishes it from every weekly newspaper that also runs a 24/7 website, as most of them do). It will have a far smaller reporting and editing staff and so – the limitless capacity of the web notwithstanding – there will be less local and regional news coverage. News consumers in Oregon will be taking a major hit.

So, long term, I suspect, will the Oregonian, and its parent Advance Publications, based out of New York; Advance (not in Portland) was where the cutback decisions got made. (They are similar to the approach which gouged the papers in Cleveland and New Orleans, which Advance also owns).

Not long ago I talked with a veteran and successful newspaper publisher outside Oregon curious what I’d heard about what was going on at the Oregonian. I said there was talk about the three-day-a-week model and major cutbacks, but also hearing about blowback in Ohio and Louisiana, with the possibility of some rethinking about at the approach at Advance. He and I agreed the big cut approach would be disastrous, and hoped it would be reconsidered.

But evidently not.

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Oregon

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Linking Idaho to Abraham Lincoln’s four greatest speeches, David H. Leroy – former Idaho lieutenant governor/attorney general who has collected 1,500 historic Lincoln-related items – said the nation’s leaders in Washington would be wise to study and respect the U.S. Constitution as did America’s 16th president.

Lincoln signed the bill creating the Idaho Territory on March 4, 1863, effectively blocking the spread of slavery to the West during the Civil War. Idaho’s gold and silver mines, in turn, helped finance the Union’s war against the Confederacy.

Lincoln appointed Idaho’s first three territorial judges, including Samuel Parks who had practiced law in the same Illinois courts as Lincoln. The Republican president mentioned the Idaho Territory in his State of the Union addresses to Congress in 1863 and 1864 and approved the name “Idaho” for the territory.

lincoln

Leroy told the City Club of Idaho Falls that those in the federal government’s executive and legislative branches need to focus on their constitutionally defined roles as the nation once again finds itself divided.

Speaking at the club’s June 13 annual dinner about Lincoln and the birth of Idaho, Leroy said individual rights and the concept of privacy need to be jealously guarded. In response to a question, he urged elected officials to comply with the oaths they take to uphold and defend the Constitution, which underwent a severe crisis during the Civil War.

A Republican and practicing attorney in Boise, Leroy served as Idaho’s 28th attorney general from 1979 to 1983. He was the Gem State’s 36th lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987 and unsuccessfully ran for governor against Cecil Andrus in 1986. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed him U.S. nuclear waste negotiator, a position he held for three years.

Leroy chaired the 2009 Idaho Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. When the Idaho History Center in Boise opens a “Lincoln Legacy” exhibit in September, it will permanently display books, letters, photos, relics, paintings, cartoons, statuary and campaign items donated from the extensive collection of Leroy and his wife Nancy.

“After 45 years traveling the breadth and length of the land, I suggest to people that Idaho more than any other state is related to Abraham Lincoln,” Leroy said, even more so than Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana.

In 1913, a University of Oxford vice chancellor in Great Britain listed the three greatest speeches ever given in the history of the English language. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address were two of the three, Leroy noted.

In February 1860, Lincoln delivered his Cooper Union speech to a capacity crowd of 1,500 in New York and noted that 21 of the 39 signers of the Constitution believed Congress should control slavery in the territories and not allow it to spread. At the time, the nation was in danger of splitting apart.

“What is the frame of government under which we live? The answer must be: ‘The Constitution of the United States.’ That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, (and under which the present government first went into operation,) and 12 subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of which were framed in 1789.”

leroy lincoln
David Leroy, center, converses with David Adler, left, and C. Timothy Hopkins at a City Club of Idaho Falls function.

He concluded that speech by saying, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.” His speech electrified the audience and built momentum for his nomination as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

If not for a man with future Idaho ties, however, that speech easily could have bombed miserably, and history would have changed, Leroy said. The basement auditorium was not well-designed for public speaking. Large pillars blocked views, and its ceiling was low.

Lincoln, who stood 6 feet 4 inches, initially came across as ungainly and awkward. “He was an odd looking duck,” Leroy said, noting he also had a high pitched voice with a western twang.

At first, Lincoln was nervous, didn’t project his voice and poorly enunciated words, losing the crowd. Mason Brayman, an Illinois attorney and friend of Lincoln, stood in the back and raised a hat on a cane to encourage Lincoln, whose voice then became loud and his eyes animated.

Following the speech, the crowd leapt to its feet in enthusiastic approval, ensuring his party’s presidential nomination three months later. Leroy said 150,000 copies of that speech were widely circulated, making Lincoln a national phenomenon. On July 24, 1876, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Brayman as Idaho territorial governor, a position he held for four years.

On Feb. 11, 1861, Lincoln gave a brief, emotional farewell address to friends and neighbors at the Great Western Depot in Springfield, Ill., prior to traveling to Washington to assume the presidency. It, too, is considered one of his most important speeches.

“My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

Fred Dubois, a son of Lincoln’s Springfield friend, Jesse Dubois, was 10 when Lincoln gave his farewell address. He often played with Lincoln’s young sons and lived across the street from the family. In 1880, Fred moved to the Idaho Territory with his brother Jesse, a doctor.

In 1882, Dubois was appointed U.S. marshal for the Idaho Territory. He launched a successful campaign to disenfranchise Mormon voters in the territory on grounds they broke the law by practicing polygamy. After Idaho became a state in July 1890, Dubois served as a Republican U.S. senator for six years.

After he was defeated, he returned to his Blackfoot alfalfa farm. He was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 1900 and switched to the Democratic Party in 1901. He remains the only person in Idaho history to serve in Congress as both a Republican and a Democrat.

Ward Hill Lamon was Lincoln’s bodyguard when the president delivered his most famous speech – the two-minute Gettysburg Address — on Nov. 19, 1863, at the Pennsylvania battleground where Union armies decisively defeated Confederate troops 4½ months earlier. Lincoln appointed Lamon U.S. marshal of the District of Columbia shortly after his inauguration in 1861.

On assignment in Richmond, Va., to oversee the surrender of Confederate troops, Lamon was not in Washington on the night of April 14, 1865, when Lincoln was assassinated. He was “absolutely disconsolate” upon learning of Lincoln’s death, Leroy said. After the assassination, Lamon accompanied the funeral procession to Springfield.

Leroy noted that after Lamon resigned his U.S. marshal post in 1865, he approached President Andrew Johnson and asked to be appointed governor of the Idaho Territory. Lincoln’s successor declined to do so.

William H. Wallace, first governor of the Idaho Territory, attended Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, at the Capitol.

Lincoln concluded that magnanimous speech by saying: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Six weeks after the speech on Friday afternoon, April 14, Wallace personally
asked Lincoln at the White House to appoint him to fill a vacancy on the Idaho Supreme Court.

Lincoln told Wallace to return on Monday and he would have the appointment. He also invited Wallace and his wife to accompany the Lincolns to Ford’s Theatre that evening, but Wallace declined. The rest is history.

Huffmans

Ethan Huffman and his mother Carol Huffman discuss historic Lincoln-related items from David Leroy’s collection.

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Idaho Mendiola

oregon

It was an expression of attitude, sure. A clear expression, and one in keeping with many active parts of the base. It was intended to raise money, and it evidently has.

But it showed too the tone-deafness that offers one reason Oregon Republicans aren’t doing better. It’s an automatic Facebook post and direct mail people for anyone not part of the gun advocacy crowd, which in Oregon includes a whole lot of swing voters.

 

gun raffle

 

The Multnomah County Republican Party is holding an auction: “AR-15 Raffle! Get Your Tickets NOW! The MCRP is raffling off a DPMS AR-15 – $10 per ticket or 12 for $100. Maximum tickets sold is 500. This is the PERFECT gift to slip into a father’s day card!”

A KATU-TV news story about it quoted Jeff Reynolds, the county chair, as saying, “It’s been very popular. To be frank, we could not make as much money with a TV as we could with an AR-15.” Significant parts of the base, he suggested, are worried their guns may be taken away.

He’s probaby right about all that.

Some miles to the south in Salem, Republican legislators have been stepping rather more carefully, in general, sticking to their ideas (and, generally, their base) while making the case for their points to others, especially people in the middle. They get some backing from the middle on PERS (the very costly Oregon public employee system), some traction in places on taxes and fees. Their recognizing that control of both chambers, now in Democratic hands, is very nearly on the bubble, and a modest breeze could give them control in 2014. (The Democrats seem, uneasily, to understand that too.)

But while the legislators move with some caution, other local party people seem not to.

Word of the raffle of an AR-15 – the same kind of weapon unleashed to deadly effect by a suicidal gunman at Clackamas Mall last winter – will appall people in Portland and the rest of Multnommah County. Okay, that’s overwhelmingly Democratic to begin with. But it’s not likely to play well either in the swing counties, notably very swingy Clackamas, where Republicans can easily get tagged as the gun nut party.

This wasn’t a brilliant media maneuver by Oregon Democrats. This was a gift to them.

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