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Posts published in June 2013

Incubation chamber

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Idaho’s political cognoscenti (a nice way of saying “junkies”) would probably agree with the statement that historically most of Idaho’s outstanding governors first cut their teeth with service in the Idaho Legislature.

Democrats like John Evans and Cecil Andrus, and Republicans like Phil Batt and C.A. “Doc” Robins come immediately to mind.

Conversely, governors who have struggled to govern well and often clashed with the Legislature’s leadership seldom have any legislative service or at best one term in the distant past. Current Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter and former Governor Dirk Kempthorne immediately come to mind.

Politics is all about relationships, and working with fellow citizens for the common good. It is not for the faint-hearted and as has been often pointed out it is a contact sport. Governors who emerge from the Legislature have built-in advantages regarding relationships with fellow legislators and often a solid knowledge of the state’s budget as well as how state agencies operate.

On June 5 a panel at Idaho State University co-sponsored by the Idaho State Journal. Purpose of the panel was to discuss the future direction of Idaho’s politics. Not surprisingly I predicted that Governor Otter would seek a third term largely because both he and First Lady like the limelight.

His paucity of accomplishments when one looks at his dismal record makes one wonder why he would even want a third term. In this writer’s opinion the litany of failures does not begin to warrant re-election, but he is the incumbent and incumbents tend to win.

I also predicted First District congressman Raul Labrador would not challenge Butch but instead would stay in the Congress, and that his reelection campaign would be run by John Foster, a former aide to one-term Democratic congressman Walt Minnick. Foster has since become a Republican and emphatically denies he will be running Labrador’s campaign.

I surprised the audience though when I said if Otter did not run there were only four Republicans I considered to be really qualified to be governor:

Lt. Governor Brad Little, House Speaker Scott Bedke, Sandpoint State Senator Shawn Keough, and Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis from Idaho Falls.

Besides Senator Davis, there was one other panel member that as we went along I realized had the potential to be a good governor - former Democratic Pocatello State Representative James Ruchti, who served in the House from 2006 through 2010. (more…)

She’s just one of too many

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Sorry to see Bachman go? No. I’m just sorry about 40 more of the same ignorant ilk aren’t going with her.

That feeling is likely shared by a lot of others who follow the machinations of our national political system. Others who remember “statesmen” like Dole, Baker, Humphries, Dirksen, Roberts, Byrd, Brooke, O’Neill, Nunn, Hatfield, Church, Jackson, Mansfield, Jackson, Kennedy (2), Fulbright, McClure and many more. Talented people who made the system work. Sudents of government as well as politics. Whatever party affiliations – whatever their places on the political spectrum left to right – they were good at what they did. They loved what they did. They were – above all – effective in what they did.

Take the words “good,” “loved” and “effective.” Do those adjectives work for Bachman? Gingrigh? Gohmert? King? Issa? Ryan? Brown (2)? Paul (2)? Rubio? Cruz? Flake? Imhoff? Several dozen more?

Those people – and far too many others – came to the national spotlight unwilling to serve their expected apprenticeship – to learn the fine art of the deal – to understand the “big picture” of government and their elected role in it. To grow beyond themselves.

Those named – and many more – suffer from the “Palin Syndrome.” They have all the symptoms – the most deadly of which is the “I-know-what-I-know-and-I-don’t-need-to-know-any-more” fever. Each achieved – as did the principle practitioner of that illness – a modicum of success by running for – and being elected to – public office. And there the learning process stopped. Those who are successful in affairs political will tell you “that’s where the learning begins.”

Clinton, Reagan, Kennedy, Bushes (2), Carter, Ford and many more who got to the Oval Office after lengthy successful political service agreed on one factual statement. Nothing – even years of national political experience – nothing can prepare you for the presidency. The same is true coming into your first months – years – in Congress. It ain’t the city council.

But Palin, Bachman et al got to the front door of their respective elected offices, sat down behind the desk and proceeded to talk and act as though all us other poor, frightened folk had just been waiting for their ascension to save us from the fires of bureaucratic Hell.

Bachman and her wingnut peers fit that description. In addition to the “I-know-all-I-need-to-know” fatal flaw, Bachman and a couple dozen fellow travelers have been serial liars. She’s been dishonest with her backers and many people around her who trusted her and looked up to her. She’s also the subject of two current government investigations into her campaign and business affairs. And ethics. If any. (more…)

Big data in Indian country

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

The 21st century is a world where data - bits of information about what we do, what we say, and how we spend money - has become as important as the story narrative. It’s hard to make any kind of case with a story alone. You need facts to back up your account. You need details. You need numbers.

Right now, of course, big data is a hot story all by itself. The Guardian newspaper broke the story about how the National Security Agency has developed a powerful tool for collecting and analyzing billions of bits of information. The newspaper cited an NSA fact sheet saying this is a tool that “allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country."

In this map, countries with scant data are green and countries where lots of electronic spying is occurring, such as Iran, are red.

The collection of private communication is a serious issue, one that in a democracy requires a vigorous debate. But the second I saw this map, I was reminded yet again that Indian Country has a different kind of data problem. There is too little reliable, timely information.

If Indian Country were to show up on the NSA’s data heat map we would be the brightest green zone on the planet.
In an era of austerity this lack of data has serious consequences. Quick: What’s the unemployment rate in Indian Country? Has it gone up or down since the sequester? What’s the actual number for furloughs? How about our spending patterns? I could go on and on.

The honest answer to every one of these questions has to be a “don’t know.” A year ago the Bureau of Indian Affairs reported that it would not release a 2010 Indian Population and Labor Force Report because “of methodology inconsistencies.” Donald E. Laverdure, acting Assistant Secretary -- Indian Affairs, wrote July 2, 2012, that the “collected data from those 2010 methods did not adequately meet the standards of quality and reliability that are required of Federal agencies in reporting official statistics.”

In a rare data driven document, the Economic Policy Institute released its picture of American Indian and Alaska Native unemployment finding that the national unemployment rate did jump during the recession from 2007 to the first half of 2010, and increased 7.7 percentage points to 15.2%. That same year EPI reported the “unemployment rate for Alaska Natives jumped 6.3 percentage points to 21.3, the highest regional unemployment rate for American Indians.” (more…)

Those people

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Katty-corner across 8th Street from the Idaho State Capitol and on the northern edge of Boise's downtown sits a large parking lot, often used over the years by state employees, sometimes over the years by others, usually professionals or lobbyists who work the area.
A Boise redevelopment agency is looking at the partial block for use as a local transit center, like those in many other cities, where buses and other multi-passenger vehicles may arrive and depart as a hub location. Many cities have similar local transit systems.
The Idaho Statesman reported last week that on April 1 two state representatives, Brent Crane of Nampa (the House assistant majority leader who's being touted in some circles as a congressional prospect) and John Vander Woude told Mayor David Bieter they opposed the transit center, or at least its location across the street from the Statehouse. What was their objection? Bieter quoted Crane as saying he didn't want “those people” congregating so close to the Statehouse.
“Those people”?
Bieter said Crane's reference was to bus riders. Vander Woude waas quoted as explaining, "What do you normally see when you go to a bus terminal?" Vander Woude said. "Does it become a collection point, a shelter, even a homeless place where people will park because there's a lot of people coming through for panhandling or whatever?" Crane evidently hasn't clarified his intent. But apparently the “those people” comment apparently is undisputed.
There's been no firestorm since, and it's a fair guess that a good many Idaho legislators, whether they'd admit it publicly or not, would agree that they'd as soon “those people”, whoever they are, keep their distance.
This has a certain timeliness.
The many changes in the rehabilitation of the Idaho Statehouse are still quite new, and that adjustment in the legislative environment have had an effect on the way lawmakers and the public interact, a subject that came up last week in a Pocatello panel on Idaho politics, sponsored by Idaho State University and the Idaho State Journal. (Disclosure: I was on the panel.) Some of those environmental changes are good, as Pocatello Representative Elaine Smith suggested, in that they allow more public access to meetings and events, in person, in much better and larger meeting rooms, or on line. (more…)

What not to say

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

It is becoming increasingly clear in this day of instant communication and 24/7 news coverage almost everyone is going to have their 15 seconds of fame before television cameras. We all watch with amazement at times at the incredibly stupid things some people say to their embarrassment in front of cameras.

Conversely, one can always tell if a person has had media training because they stay on their message regardless of what the reporter may be asking.

In the interests of keeping any of my readers from embarrassing themselves allow me to offer a few tips on what to use when being interviewed by a reporter:

Rule #1: Never repeat the negative, which also almost always means never repeat the question back to the reporter. The media always asks questions in the negative: “Mr. Nixon, are you a crook?” It was answered by “I am not a crook!” Remember the headline?

In fact, anytime you find yourself defining something by a negative, stop and repeat as a positive. Think how many people define themselves by saying what they are not instead of what they are. At all costs avoid using negatives of any kind.

If a reporter says “Aren’t you misleading the viewers? John Jones says you are.” You don’t say “no, I’m not misleading the viewer.” That’s repeating the negative. Instead, you respond “John Jones is wrong. Here are the facts (or here is the truth).” You come back with a positive statement.

Use of the word “not” in any circumstance should be the big flag to you.

Not is negative, pure and simple.

Rule #2. Stay on your message. If you decide to do an interview, do so with a clear thought of what message you want to deliver regardless of what question the reporter asks. The reporter always has his or her pre-conceived idea of what they want you to say, but it’s your interview and you decide what you want to say.

One of the best examples of staying on message was a CNN interview early one morning with Rick Scott, the multi-millionaire businessman running for governor of Florida in 2012. His message was he was all about creating jobs and he had the know how to do so.

No matter what question the reporter asked he brought it back to his message that he was all about jobs. Every answer was “jobs.” He was relentless.

So what if the reporter got frustrated? Scott got his message across.

Incidentally, he won.

Rule #3: Master the technique of “blocking and bridging.” This is the device that enables you to stay on message. It simply means you quickly dispense with the question you’re being asked, that is you block the thrust of what the reporter is asking and you bridge to what you want to say. (more…)

A word to do without

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Though you’ll find stout defenders of freedom of speech at our house, there’s a word appearing more often these days in our politics – nationally and locally – we’d actively work to abolish from any public political expressions in this country. It’s a despicable word. It’s a word with no place in thoughtful political dialogue. In nearly all cases, it’s a clear demonstration of the ignorance of those that use it. It has no place in any intelligent discussion of America’s politics.
The word is “Hitler.”

Used as a name, the word’s moat terrible meaning has been around our national culture since the 1920′s. Used as a political brickbat – a demeaning, disgusting weapon – the word was roundly resurrected in the early days of the tea party. It showed up in much of the literature – was repeatedly flung to crowds from microphones – and was on many, many placards, banners and signs announcing the arrival in the streets of the loony, far-right fringe of the Republican Party.

The other day, Sen. Grassley – an Iowan whose recent public rants have become more weird than usual – reached into the verbal dung pile to attach the word “Hitler” to American foreign policy. Grassley said this country “has no foreign policy” and the last time that happened was in “Sept. 1939, when Hitler started WWII in Poland.” There is so much wrong with that bogus claim Iowans of all political stripe should be embarrassed.

Here in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, the word popped up recently
in a local column about an 84-year-old woman who sells guns out of the back room of her home. Lots of ‘em. She was referring to the latest nutty far right conspiracy tale that the Dept. Of Homeland Security is buying up all the ammunition as a means of gun control.

“We saw the same thing during Hitler’s regime and I’m old enough to remember it” was the quote. Pure crap. But she made it into the local almost-daily, almost-newspaper with it.

I’ve used this space before to dispel the oft-told lie about Hitler taking guns from Germans in the 1930′s. He made it tougher for Jews to have guns and required them to be registered, yes. But Hitler actually loosened gun laws and encouraged all “pure Germans” to arm themselves – a complete contravention of the Treaty of Versailles which required disarming of the German Republic following WWI.

But the lie persists. I ran across a Georgia gun dealer’s site on the old I-net the other day. Prominent picture of Adolph giving the salute behind and to the right of a picture of President Obama with a Hitler moustache and the warning “This one’s after your guns, too.” (more…)

Road trip Boise

The Andrus Center, named for the former Governor Cecil Andrus and aimed at providing educational events on public affairs, has opened an intriguing new location - across the street from Boise's Grove Hotel, on the southern side of downtown, and across another street from a large new supermarket. Its location on Capitol Boulevard will be high-visibility.

Around-Idaho travelers Chris Carlson and I, running around the state on our book tour (Chris' book are Medimont Reflections and Andrus, mine with Marty Peterson the Idaho 100), had a chance to check out the new digs, just being transferred from a location on the Boise State University campus. There's a real chance this could become a major venue for some high-profile events in months to come, and conversation seemed to be leaning in that direction.

We were there at a book signing and talking event, introduced by the center's director, David Adler, and Andrus himself. As elsewhere, we attracted not mobs of people but a substantial number, enough to make for another nice event.

Next stop on the road, tonight, will be at Ketchum, at an event hosted by former state Representative Wendy Jaquet.

The Idaho Tour: White Bird to Boise

After a fine stop at Lewiston, Chris Carlson and I continued on Sunday headed south to Boise.

Sunday afternoon we had a fine flash-neighborhood gathering at White Bird, where Chris had some friends. At a house overlooking the Salmon River (and depending on the flow, sometimes right on top of it), people gathered and talked and ... bought books.

Today we're in Boise; our main book event today will be at the Andrus Center at 301 S Capitol. Tomorrow, on to Ketchum and beyond.

Summer of irregular order

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, has outlined his congressional agenda for this summer. “We have a busy month ahead of us and July will be just as busy, with our continued focus on making life work for Americans through our conservative solutions,” Cantor wrote to members of the Republican caucus. “During that stretch, members should expect a number of important issues to reach the house floor, including: the continuation of the appropriations process ...”

This summer’s budget conclusion -- at least from Cantor’s point of view -- is “regular order” for Appropriations bills for fiscal year 2014 and some sort of resolution of the debt limit.

The key message for Indian Country and the programs that serve American Indians and Alaska Natives is the House Fiscal Year 2014 budget will based on the Budget Control Act, the law that gave us the sequester. So, Cantor wrote, “the overall spending level contained in the twelve appropriations bills is written to the sequester-level of $967 billon.”

First, it’s interesting that Cantor would again pledge “regular order.” He’s saying the House would pass its budget and appropriations bills and the Senate would do the same. Then a conference committee between the two legislative bodies would negotiate the differences until common ground is found.

But it’s misleading at best. Regular order has not happened on the budget. The House, so far, has refused to appoint members to a conference committee with the Senate instead insisting on a “pre-conference” negotiation. An editorial in The New York Times said the House actually prefers chaos to regular order. “Clearly, what is frustrating Republicans is that they do not have an imminent crisis to exploit to get their way,” the editorial said. “Since 2011, they have repeatedly relied on the threat of a government shutdown, or a possible credit default, to force damaging spending cuts. (That is how the sequester was created.)”

So even though the process of regular order is not working for the budget -- the big picture review of federal spending -- it is supposed to work for the individual appropriations bills that write checks agency by agency. Let me be clear about this: A regular order on appropriations would be a good thing for Indian Country. There are many friends in the House that could use that process to improve spending on at least key programs, such as health and education. (Remembering of course that the overall budget is somewhere between irresponsible and awful.) At the same time -- and in a contrary move -- the overall Appropriations process will be worse because House Republicans want more money for Defense and to pay for that they will look to cut more domestic spending.

It will be up to the Senate to say no.

Unfortunately this situation won’t change until after the next election. Because it’s not only the Senate that can say no. Republicans are in a position to halt any new spending, or even a lifting of the sequester itself. South Dakota Sen. John Thune recently told The Washington Post, “I don’t anticipate that the sequester gets turned off. That to me is one of the few areas where we actually have cut spending.” He’s the number three ranking Republican in the Senate so his views are reflective. (more…)